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Gifts and Honoraria: Solicitation and Acceptance
Gifts and Honoraria
Commissioners are prohibited from soliciting or receiving anything of value to the commissioner based upon the understanding that the commissioner’s official action would be influenced by receipt of a thing of “value.” These things of “value” can include gifts, loans, rewards, favors, services and promises of future employment.
In addition, a commissioner, as well as the commissioner’s spouse and minor children, are prohibited from accepting anything of value that the commissioner knows, or with the exercise of reasonable care should know, was given to influence the commissioner’s official action as a commissioner.
Even if a gift is given with no understanding that the commissioner’s official actions are to be influenced by the gift, a commissioner may not accept any gift from a person who lobbies the Commission when the commissioner reasonably believes the gift has a value in excess of $100, except that the commissioner may accept such a gift on behalf of a governmental agency or charitable organization.
An “honorarium” is the payment of money or anything of value received in exchange for a speech, address, oral presentation or a writing for publication, other than a book. Commissioners are prohibited from “soliciting” honoraria related to the commissioner’s public office or duties as a commissioner. The law does not specifically prohibit a commissioner from “receiving” an honorarium for giving a speech or presentation – a commissioner is only prohibited from “soliciting” an honorarium. However, the law does prohibit “receipt” of an honorarium from a lobbyist who lobbies the Commission. A commissioner can accept transportation, lodging and food and beverage expenses, as well as meeting registration fees related to an event at which the commissioner has been asked to give a speech or presentation in his or her official capacity. The commissioner must then report receipt of these expenses if the honorarium was received from someone who “lobbies” the Commission.
Reporting of Gifts or Honoraria
When a commissioner receives gifts, honoraria or expenses for giving a presentation in his or her capacity as a commissioner, particularly when lawful submissions have been received from those who lobby the Commission, there are significant reporting requirements that must be met.
If In Doubt . . .
The laws dealing with the issue of a commissioner receiving gifts and honoraria are complicated and intricate to the point that it is very difficult to make general summary statements about them. Consequently, if any commissioner finds that he or she is in the position of being offered something of value, the best course of action to take is for the commissioner to contact the Commission’s chief legal counsel. Legal staff can then conduct the appropriate research and recommend a course of action to take based on the specific facts of the situation involved.