Soon after the gift rule took effect, the Standards Committee recognized that there are certain events that are worthwhile for Members or staff to attend, but that do not meet the numeric requirement for widely attended events (i.e., at least 25 non-congressional attendees). Among such events are those designed for a small group in order to facilitate discussion. Accordingly, the Committee granted a general gift rule waiver allowing Members and staff to accept invitations to events (including meals offered as part of these events) that, while they do not meet the numeric requirement for widely attended events, are:
- Educational (for example, lectures, seminars and discussions); and
- Sponsored by universities, foundations, “think tanks,” or similar nonprofit, nonadvocacy organizations.
As under the gift rule provisions summarized above regarding events, Members and staff may accept such an invitation from the event sponsor only.
In keeping with the gift rule’s intent, this waiver does not extend to meals in connection with presentations sponsored by lobbyists, lobbying firms, or advocacy groups. Moreover, this waiver does not extend to meals in connection with legislative briefings or strategy sessions, even if the sponsoring entity has educational status under the Tax Code.
Example 27. A nonpartisan, nonprofit “think tank” hosts a luncheon series featuring distinguished speakers from academia discussing foreign policy topics. The organization invites about 15 individuals to each luncheon, including some House staff members. The staff members may attend and accept the lunch under this waiver.
Example 28. A trade association establishes a nonprofit educational foundation. The foundation sponsors a monthly forum at which experts from the field explain aspects of their industry and the ramifications of various legislative proposals for that industry. A dozen House staff members are invited to these presentations, which occur over lunch. The staff members may attend, but they may not accept the lunch under the terms of this waiver. This is so because these events are legislative briefings, and as noted above, this waiver does not extend to such events.