Requirements for Pre-Travel Certification, Ethics Committee Approval, and Post-Travel Disclosure
In implementing the requirements of the rules regarding privately-sponsored travel, the Committee has issued three forms: (1) a Private Sponsor Form; (2) a Traveler Form (which includes a signed statement for Member advance authorization of employee travel); and (3) Member/Officer and Employee Post-Travel Disclosure Forms. The forms are available on the Committee’s website. A brief discussion of pre-travel certification, Committee approval, and post-travel disclosure requirements follows.
Pre-Travel Certification by Sources of Private Travel. Under the travel provisions of the gift rule, both certification by the private source of a variety of travel-related facts and approval of the travel by the Committee are required before Members and staff may accept travel from a private source for all officially-connected trips (i.e., regardless of whether the private source retains or employs a lobbyist). To receive Committee approval, Members and staff must provide the Committee with written certification from the private source as to the following:
- The trip will not be financed in any part by a lobbyist;
- That (1) the source does not retain or employ a lobbyist, (2) the source is an institution of higher education, or (3) the trip meets the requirements for travel to a one-day event and the source describes the de minimis involvement of a lobbyist in planning, organizing, requesting, or arranging the trip;
- No funds from another source were earmarked for any aspect of the trip;
- The traveler will not be accompanied by a lobbyist, except for a trip sponsored by an institution of higher education; and
- The trip, except as otherwise permitted in the rules for one-day event trips and trips sponsored by an institution of higher education, will not be planned, organized, requested, or arranged by a lobbyist (House Rule 25, clause 5(d)(1)).
A private sponsor offering officially-connected travel to a Member or staff person must complete and sign a Private Sponsor Form, and provide a copy of that form to each House invitee – not directly to the Committee. The Committee has issued detailed instructions (also available on the Committee’s website) to assist sponsors in completing the necessary form.
Committee Approval. Every Member, officer, or employee wishing to participate in an officially-connected trip must receive approval from the Committee before accepting travel funded by a private source. Acceptance of travel from a private source for an unapproved trip is a violation of House rules. A Member or staff person seeking approval for a trip must submit to the Committee a completed and signed Traveler Form along with the Private Sponsor Form. For staff travel, the Traveler Form must include a signed statement by the supervising Member of advance authorization of employee travel. Members and staff are advised to maintain copies of all completed forms for their own records. As discussed below, certain forms are required to be included with the public filing with the Clerk of the House following return from the travel.
As indicated on the forms, any request for approval of private sponsored travel should be submitted to the Committee at least 14 days before the commencement of the trip. That 14-day time period is necessary to allow the Committee ample time to review the submission and give final approval, while still permitting sufficient time for the traveler to make the necessary travel arrangements.
Post-Travel Disclosure. Members and staff are required to file with the Clerk of the House “all advance authorizations, certifications, and disclosures,” and the Clerk is required to make all of that information available for public inspection as soon as possible after receipt (House Rule 25, clause 5(b)(5)). Post-travel disclosure forms must be completed, signed, and filed with the Legislative Resource Center of the Clerk of the House (Room B-106, Cannon House Office Building) within 14 days after the travel is completed.20 It is a violation of House rules not to file the necessary disclosure within that time period. On their post-travel disclosure forms, Members and staff are required to provide a description of the “meetings and events attended,” in addition to other information required to be disclosed under the rule (House Rule 25, clause 5(b)(3)(F)). The Clerk’s office forwards a copy of each disclosure form as filed to the Committee for review.
Members and officers, as well as employees who file a Financial Disclosure Statement, must also disclose travel and travel-related expenses provided by a private source valued at more than $335 on Schedule VII of their annual statement.
20 Under the rules in effect prior to the 110th Congress, disclosures were required be filed within 14 days after the traveler returned from the officially-connected trip.