OGE clarifies gift-giving rules as inauguration approaches

Friday - 1/4/2013, 2:53pm EST

With President Barack Obama's second inauguration — along with the flurry of balls, receptions and other related ceremonies — just weeks away, the Office of Government Ethics has issued new guidance for federal employees to stay abreast of ethics rules.

Because federal employees may be enticed by the offer of gifts or free attendance at such events, OGE "thought it appropriate to remind agencies of the ethical requirements relevant to a federal employee during the inauguration celebration, particularly those requirements regarding gifts," OGE's general counsel, Don Fox wrote in the memo.

The memo reiterates the general prohibition on executive-branch employees accepting gifts from certain sources and the ban on full-time noncareer administration employees from accepting gifts from registered lobbyists.

But Fox said many of the offers of free attendance at inauguration events "may fall within one of the exceptions of exclusions to the gift prohibitions."

Those exceptions include:

  • Federal employees may accept gifts of $20 or less from any source as long as the total value of gifts received from the same source doesn't exceed $50 in a calendar year. For political appointees, the gift-giver also cannot be a registered lobbyist.

  • Employees can receive gifts based on personal or family relationship. "Gifts that are clearly motivated by a family relationship or personal friendship are permissible," the OGE memo stated.

  • Employees who participate in political-management type activities or campaigns may accept certain benefits from political organizations, such as free attendance at events, OGE said.

  • Federal employees are also authorized to attend "widely attended gatherings," so long as an employee's attendance is in their agency's interest.

RELATED STORIES:

Big crowd, but not a record, seen for inauguration

Office of Government Ethics seeks stricter gift rules