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“A plaque, trophy, or other item that is substantially commemorative in nature and that is intended for presentation” may be accepted (House Rule 25, clause 5(a)(3)(S)). There are several points to note regarding this provision.
First, in contrast to other provisions of the gift rule, this one refers to “presentation,” and thus the concept of the provision is that there will be an in-person presentation of the item to the Member or staff person.
Second, in order to be acceptable under this provision, an item must be “substantially commemorative in nature.” Usually there is little question as to the commemorative nature of a plaque or trophy.42 As to other items that may be presented to a Member or staff person at an event – for example, an expensive pen or a crystal bowl – such items are not commemorative in nature merely because they were presented at an event. Instead, in order to fall within this provision, an item must have some commemorative characteristic or feature. It would be impossible to enumerate all of the features that would cause an item to be deemed commemorative, but an item that is inscribed or engraved with the Member’s name, the name of the presenting organization, and the date of the presentation will likely be deemed commemorative in nature.
Finally, as a general matter, the items acceptable under this provision may not have significant utilitarian or artistic value. Thus, for example, a television would not be acceptable under this provision, no matter how elaborate an inscription appears on the television. The types of items that can be accepted under this provision, if commemorative in nature by reason of an inscription or otherwise, include a framed photo or print, a figurine, or a clock.
When a Member or staff person is presented with an item of unusually high value, or receives information that a group intends to present an item of such value, the official should contact the Standards Committee for guidance. A commemorative item that exceeds $335 in value will have to be disclosed on Schedule VI of one’s annual Financial Disclosure Statement (see the section on “Gift Disclosure” below).
Example 36. After a Member speaks at an event, the sponsoring organization presents him with an expensive pen that is inscribed with his name only. Because the inscription is limited to the Member’s name, the pen is not commemorative in nature and thus may not be accepted.
Example 37. A Member visits an Indian tribe, and during her visit, the tribal leaders present her with a blanket that was handmade by members of the tribe. Because the blanket has a traditional tribal design, the Member may accept it as a commemorative item.
Example 38. An aircraft manufacturer in a Member’s district sends the Member, through the mail, a high-quality model of one of the airplanes it builds. While the Member probably could have accepted the model as a commemorative item had it been presented to him in person, he may not accept it under this provision since it was merely mailed to him.