Artwork and Other Gifts of an Unusual Nature
At times a Member has been offered, for display in his or her office, a work of art having significant value. Members have also been offered gifts of an unusual nature, the value of which is not readily ascertainable. Gifts in this category have ranged from works of art and antiques to items emblematic of the donor’s cultural group. The gift may represent the personal efforts of an individual, or may symbolize the esteem of a constituent group, and thus a Member may feel awkward about declining such a gift.
A Member may accept a loan of a painting or other work of art from his or her home state for the purpose of displaying the item in the Member’s House office. It should be clearly established in correspondence between the Member and the item’s owner that the Member is holding the item on a loan basis only, and that the item will be returned to the owner upon the soonest of the item being removed from display, the Member leaving office, or the owner requesting its return. In addition, a written statement of the value of the item should be obtained from the owner, and if possible, it is advisable to place a sticker or other marking on the item that states that the item is on loan and identifies the owner. Finally, the Member should enter into a written agreement with the owner that provides for liability in the event of damage or loss, since official allowances may not be used to repair or replace personal property. On the latter point, staff of the Committee on House Administration should be contacted.
In addition, in certain circumstances, the Ethics Committee may consent to a Member receiving a gift of a work of art or similar item for the sole purpose of facilitating its donation to, for example, a museum in the home district or the House Fine Arts Board.58 Provided that the recipient agrees, such an item may be loaned back to the Member, on a temporary basis, for display in the Member’s office. Any Member having a question about the proper manner to handle a gift of this nature should contact the Ethics Committee for advice.