The State Ethics Commission has again cautioned lawmakers that invitations to “‘food and drink’ events such as breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and receptions,” including fundraisers, are considered to be gifts under provisions of the State Ethics Code.
In an email to all legislators yesterday, Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo said the commission has standing guidance that spells out how the gift provisions apply to these invitations. He directed legislators to the publication, “Guidelines for Gifts Under the State Ethics Code.”
According to those guidelines, accepting invitations to “food and drink” events valued at under $25 may generally be accepted.
Receptions and meals, including ticketed events, valued at $25 or more, may not be accepted by a legislator or employee unless there is a legitimate “state benefit,” i.e., there is a reasonable relationship between the event and the legislator’s or employee’s official duties. Generally, a desire to “show support” for an organization by attending a fundraising function is not, by itself, sufficient to establish a “state benefit.”
Kondo also invited legislators to contact the commission with questions about any specific invitation being offered.