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Travel Guidance

Travel paid for, or reimbursed, by a person or entity other than you is considered a gift and subject to the House Gift Rule and the prohibition on soliciting gifts.  Topics discussed in this section are

[1] House rule 25, cl. 5; 5 U.S.C. § 7353
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I. Prohibition on Solicitation

You may not solicit anything of value for yourself or others, including travel.  If you asked to attend a trip, or someone else asked for you, you may not participate in the trip.  Additionally, you may not invite others to participate in a trip sponsored by an outside organization or allow your name to be used to solicit travelers.  If you have any questions on this prohibition, please contact the Committee’s Advice and Education staff at 202-225-7103 or ethicscommittee@mail.house.gov

[2] 5 U.S.C. § 7353.
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[3]  Id.; 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a); Comm. on House Admin., Members’ Congressional Handbook (official resources may only be used for official purposes).
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II. Additional Requirements and Fees

Trip sponsors may have additional requirements, including an application or specific timeframes to book travel.  Be sure to follow any additional requirements the trip sponsors have, in addition to following the requirements here.

Trip sponsors may occasionally ask you to pay for your own travel expenses upfront and then be reimbursed by the trip sponsor.  As long as you are reimbursed for the full amount you spent, even if after the fact, the trip sponsor is the one paying for your travel.

If you are asked to spend personal funds for travel in your official capacity, and you will not be reimbursed, please call the Committee for further guidance. 

III. Officially-Connected Travel Paid for by a Private Source Ethics Committee Travel Regulations

[4]  All guidance related to Privately-Sponsored, Officially-Connected Travel can be found in the Ethics Committee’s Travel Regulations.  Following an intensive review, the Committee revised its Travel Regulations on December 27, 2012.  The Committee subsequently revised the Travel Regulations on December 9, 2020.  The 2020 Travel Regulations will be effective for all trips starting on or after April 1, 2021.  The current version is available here.
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     A. Ethics Committee Pre-Approval

  • You must submit your travel requests to the Committee no later than 30 days before the start of the trip.  The Committee has a travel calculator to calculate your due date.
  • You are responsible for submitting your travel requests.  The Committee does not accept travel requests directly from a trip sponsor.
  • You must submit a complete submission to be considered “on time.”  Changes or revisions that must be made during the review process do not change the initial submission date.
  • A “complete submission” is the Traveler Form, the Primary Trip Sponsor Form and its attachments, Additional Sponsor Forms, and your invitation.
  • The Committee will only accept travel requests through the Committee’s email at travel.requests@mail.house.gov or hand-delivered to the Committee’s office.  If you would like to hand-deliver your submission, you must submit two copies of your request.
  • Late travel requests are only allowed in limited circumstances.
    • Officers and staff may submit late requests only for exceptional circumstances
    • Exceptional circumstances include
      • Media request
      • Request to be a substitute speaker at an event
      • Staffer accompanying a Member who submitted a permissible late request
      • An office closing due to inclement weather
    • Exceptional circumstances are not
      • Late invitation from the trip sponsor except for media requests
      • Forgetting to submit a travel request on time
      • Waiting for complete forms
  • The Committee will only approve travel requests that comply with the Committee’s Travel Regulations.
[5]  The Committee highly recommends that anyone wishing to sponsor privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel read the Committee’s Travel Regulations.
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  • You must receive Committee pre-approval before accepting privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.
  • If you do not receive Committee pre-approval before accepting privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel, either your office will need to pay for the trip or you could request retroactive approval.  The Committee does not guarantee that retroactive approval will be granted, and all requests are highly fact-specific. 
  • If your office must pay, the Member may be able to use the MRA or committee funds, principal campaign committee funds, or the Member’s own personal funds.
  • Officers and employees may not use their own personal funds to pay for an officially-connected trip.
[6]  For requests to use the MRA or committee funds, please call the Committee on House Administration.  To use principal campaign committee funds, please call the FEC’s congressional liaisons.
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     B. Post-Travel Disclosure

Within 15 days after returning from your trip, you must file post-travel disclosures with the Legislative Resource Center for public disclosure.  Forms that must be submitted are

  • Traveler Post-Travel Disclosure Form
  • Trip Sponsor Post-Travel Disclosure Form
  • Approved version of the Traveler Form
  • Approved version of the Primary Trip Sponsor Form and its attachments
  • Approved version of any Additional Sponsor Form
  • Letter approving travel request signed by Ethics Committee Chairman and Ranking Member
  • Approved version of the trip agenda
  • Updated trip agenda showing any changes made since receiving Committee pre-approval
  • Approved version of the invitee list
  • List of confirmed attendees
  • Copy of the invitation

Adjustments to your travel after you received Committee pre-approval, such as shortening the trip or not bringing an accompanying relative, should be reflected on the Traveler Post-Travel Disclosure Form.  If you would like to make changes to your travel request, you must contact the Committee prior to making any adjustments.

If you file annual financial disclosure statements, you may also need to report privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel on Schedule H (“Travel Payments and Reimbursements”) of your statement.

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     C. Travel Related to Official Responsibilities

All privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel must relate to the traveler’s official or representational duties.  The Committee reviews each request on a case-by-case basis based on the information provided in the travel request and additional communications with the traveler and trip sponsor. 

[7] “[T]ravel [must be] in connection with the duties of [the] individual as an officeholder and would not create the appearance that the [Member, officer or employee] is using public office for private gain.” House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(3)(G).
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  • The Committee looks to
    • The traveler’s official responsibilities
    • Whether the trip relates to matters within Congress’s legislative or policy interests
    • The amount of officially-connected activities during the trip, not including any recreational activities
    • Whether the traveler’s employing Member certifies the relationship to official duties
[8] “[E]vents, the activities of which are substantially recreational in nature, are not considered to be in connection with the duties of [the individual] as an officeholder.” See House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(B).
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  • Examples of activities related to official duties include
    • Attendance at a meeting or conference
    • Speaking at a conference or on a panel
    • Participating in a fact-finding trip
    • Delivering a speech or accepting an award in your official capacity

The Committee will not approve privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel to conduct official business or personal activities. 

[9]  House Rule 24, cls. 1-3 prohibit outside supplementation, both monetary and in-kind, for official House business.  For guidance on proper funding sources for official travel, please see Official Travel
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  • Official business includes
    • Conducting field hearings
    • Conducting general oversight functions
    • Performing a core function of official duties
    • Attending meetings where only congressional Members and staff are present
  • Personal activities include
    • Recreational activities
    • Personal travel
    • Charitable or political fundraising
    • Professional development activities, including continuing education courses
    • Networking activities

Your employing Member must certify that your travel request is related to your official responsibilities.

  • For a Member, the Member certifies.
  • For personal office staff, the Member certifies.
  • For majority-side committee staff, the chairman of the full committee certifies.
  • For minority-side committee staff, either the chairman or the ranking member of the full committee certifies.
  • For staff of a non-partisan or bipartisan committee, the chairman of the full committee certifies.
  • For staff of a joint committee, the highest ranking House Member certifies.
  • For staff of an office not overseen by a Member, the House Officer, or highest-ranking employee if not overseen by an Officer, certifies.
[10] A Member may authorize an employee to sign for the Member, but in no instance should that employee authorize the employee’s own travel.
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     D. Length of Travel

          i. General Time Limits

Travel within the continental United States may not exceed 96 hours, wheels up to wheels down. 

Travel outside the continental United States may not exceed 7 days, not including travel to and from the destination.  Travel outside the continental United States includes travel to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and any other U.S. territory or commonwealth.  Days spent in whole or part traveling to or from the destination do not count towards the 7 day limit.  Travel within a foreign country or between foreign countries does count to the 7 day limit.

Travel sponsored by an organization that employs or retains a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent is limited to events on a single calendar day.  You may accept travel to and from the destination and a single night’s lodging.  The Committee may approve a second night’s lodging if needed for you to practically participate in the one-day event. 

[11] House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(C).
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[12] House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(C).
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Generally each day must include a full day of programming.  Officially-connected programming means meetings or sessions related to the primary purpose of the trip.  Officially-connected programming does not include entertainment or recreational activities, time for personal telephone calls, “executive” or personal time, or meals without substantive programming.

          ii. Further Considerations for Time Limits

The Committee will only approve necessary travel expenses.  Necessary travel expenses are expenses reasonably necessary to accomplish the purpose of the trip.  The Committee may require adjustments to travel plans based on the trip’s agenda.

[14] House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(A).
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On rare occasions, the Committee may approve extensions of the 96 hour or 7 day limit.  The Committee will not extend the time limit for trips sponsored by organizations that employ or retain registered federal lobbyists or foreign agents.  Any request to extend the time limit must be for truly exceptional circumstances such as travel from a destination so remote it only receives air service every 10 days.  An extension for convenience or because a larger conference may last longer than the time limit is not an exceptional circumstance.

[14] House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(4)(A).
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[15]  Time limits for privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel were imposed out of concern for “the public perception that such trips often may amount to paid vacations for the Member and his family at the expense of special interest groups.”  House Bipartisan Task Force on Ethics, 101st Cong. Report on H.R. 3660, 101st Cong., 1st Sess. (Comm Print 1989), reprinted in 135 Cong. Rec. 30740, 30742 (daily ed. Nov. 21, 1989).
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     E. Private Sponsors in General

Generally any non-governmental entity may be a trip sponsor.  A trip sponsor is any private entity that

  • Plans or organizes trip activities;
  • Pays for all trip expenses with its own funds; or
  • Pays for trip expenses using funds from other organizations, in whole or part.

A Primary Trip Sponsor is the organization that is primarily responsible for planning, organizing, and paying for the travelers’ expenses and activities.  Trips may have multiple Primary Trip Sponsors.

Additional Sponsors are organizations that assist the Primary Trip Sponsor.  Assistance can be monetary or in-kind.  Examples of assistance from Additional Sponsors are

  • Providing a grant to the Primary Trip Sponsor to support the trip
  • Providing funds to the Primary Trip Sponsor that are earmarked or specifically designated for the trip or congressional travel in general
  • Paying for individual events or activities during the trip
  • Assisting with planning or organizing the trip or activities during the trip

Registered federal lobbyists, foreign agents, and lobbying firms may not be trip sponsors.

[16]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(A).  The gift rule provides that the term “registered lobbyist” means “a lobbyist registered under the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act or any successor statute,” and the term “agent of a foreign principal” means “an agent registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”  House Rule 25, cl. 5(g). 

Because you may not accept travel from an individual who is a registered lobbyist, you likewise may not accept travel from a lobbying firm.  As a general matter, the Committee does not consider a corporation, trade association, labor union, or other entity that retains or employs lobbyists to represent only the interests of the organization or its members to be a “lobbyist” for purposes of the prohibition.

An organization with registered federal lobbyists or foreign agents who only sit on its board or volunteer for the organization, but are registered to represent other organizations, is not considered an organization that employs or retains a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent.  2020 Travel Regulations § 204.  The restrictions discussed in this section apply to organizations with registered federal lobbyists or foreign agents registered to represent those organizations.
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Private Foundations have limits on their ability to sponsor travel.  Those limits are

  • May not be the Primary Trip Sponsor for an international trip, including travel to territories or possessions of the United States; and
  • May not have a role in selecting trip participants for an international trip, including travel to territories or possessions of the United States.
[17]   See 26 U.S.C. § 4941.
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     F. Private Sponsors with Lobbyists/Foreign Agents

Organizations that employ or retain registered federal lobbyists or foreign agents may sponsor travel, with limits. 

The limits do not apply to sponsors that are public or not-for-profit private colleges or universities, even if those colleges or universities employ or retain a registered federal lobbyist.  These limits also do not apply to sponsors where lobbyists are involved with the organization, as long as those lobbyists are not registered to lobby for that organization.

[18]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(C)(i).  These colleges and universities must meet the definition of “institutions of higher education” under the Higher Education Act of 1965.  For-profit colleges and universities do not meet this definition.  See 20 U.S.C. § 1001.
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[21]  Lobbyists themselves still may not be involved in more than de minimis activities, but the one day rule would not apply.
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Limits for trips sponsored by organizations with registered federal lobbyists or foreign agents are

  • Travelers may only participate in one calendar day’s worth of activities,
  • Lobbyist or foreign agent involvement many only be de minimis, and
  • Lobbyists or foreign agents may not accompany travelers on any segment of the trip.
[20]  A trip segment is transportation to or from the city of departure, or return, and the trip destination.  Local transportation to attend events or visit locations at the trip destination itself is not included in the definition of a trip segment.
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  • Accompanying travelers between the city of departure and the destination is prohibited.
  • Accompanying travelers on local transportation to events or locations within the destination is allowed.

De minimis involvement in planning or organizing a trip is

  • Responding to a trip sponsor’s request for names of House Members, officers, or employees who might be interested in an issue; or
  • Sitting on the board of, or volunteering for, the trip sponsor, without any involvement in planning or organizing the trip.

Involvement that is more than de minimis includes

  • Determining or suggesting, without request, which House travelers should be invited on a trip
  • Extending or following up on invitations to House travelers
  • Signing the trip sponsor forms provided to House travelers
  • Being mentioned in or on an invitation extended by another individual or entity
  • Setting or recommending, without request, any part of the trip agenda
  • Making travel arrangements for House travelers

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     G. Additional Sponsors

Additional Sponsors assist the Primary Trip Sponsor with planning, organizing, or paying for the trip.

Only Additional Sponsors that are organized under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code may provide monetary assistance without having a direct role in planning or organizing the trip.

[21]  In previous versions of the Committee’s guidance and travel regulations, the Committee only allowed sponsors who played “a significant role in organizing and conducting a trip, and that also have a clear and defined organizational interest in the purpose of the trip or location being visited.”  Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, Travel Guidelines and Regulations, at 3-4 (Feb. 20, 2007), reprinted in 2008 House Ethics Manual at 399-400; see Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, Investigation of Financial Transactions participating in and Gifts of Transportation Accepted by Representative Fernand J. St. Germain, H.R. Rep. 100-46, at 5-6 (1987). 

On December 27, 2012, the Committee issued new travel regulations that allowed additional sponsors to provide monetary assistance, as long as the sponsors 1) are recognized under IRC § 501(c)(3) and audit or review their grants to the primary trip sponsors to ensure compliance with the grant terms, and 2) are publicly disclosed.  Comm. on Ethics, Travel Guidelines and Regulations § 104(i) (Dec. 27, 2012) [hereinafter 2012 Travel Regulations].  The current Travel Regulations continue this practice.
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All Additional Sponsors that provide assistance to the Primary Trip Sponsor without receiving a tangible benefit in return must complete Additional Sponsor Forms and be disclosed.  Examples of tangible benefits include

  • Receiving advertising at an event and free tickets in return for sponsorship
  • Paying for and receiving booth space at a trade show
  • Being named publicly as a sponsor of a large conference

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     H. Involvement of United States Governments or Foreign Governments

If a federal, state, or local government entity is assisting a trip sponsor with paying for, planning, or organizing a privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip, that government entity does not need to be disclosed as an additional sponsor.    

If a foreign government is assisting a trip sponsor with paying for in-country expenses, or assisting with planning or organizing a privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip, the foreign government’s assistance must be disclosed.  Specifically,

  • The Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act must allow the in-country expenses, and
  • The Primary Trip Sponsor must disclose the foreign government and the type of assistance on the Primary Trip Sponsor Form.

For more information about foreign government involvement, see Travel Paid for by a Foreign Government.

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     I. Locations of and Events during Travel

          i. Purpose of Travel

Privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel will either be arranged or organized without regard to congressional participation or with regard to congressional participation.

Without regard to congressional participation means travel where your participation is incidental to the larger purpose of the event.  Examples include

  • Business or trade association annual conferences
  • Meetings of professional societies
  • Symposiums, seminars, roundtables

With regard to congressional participation means travel that is specifically for your participation, or where your participation is crucial to the success of the event.  Examples include

  • Fact-finding trips
  • Site visits
  • Educational conferences or briefings designed for congressional attendance
  • An evening or interview with a Member as the sole event

For travel without regard to congressional participation, the location of the trip is presumptively valid.  You must still demonstrate your participation is related to your official or representational duties and attend sufficient activities on each day of the trip.

For travel with regard to congressional participation, the trip destinations must be directly related to the officially-connected purpose of the trip.

          ii. Distance of Travel

Generally privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel may not be used for local travel.

[22]  See House Rule 24, cls. 1-3.  Because official allowances are available to cover travel expenses for Members and staff within Washington, D.C., and between Washington, D.C. and the district offices, House travelers may not accept private subsidy for that official travel.  However, you may accept local transportation expenses under other exceptions to the House Gift Rule (e.g., local transportation for a widely-attended event). 
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  • Local travel is travel to a destination that is
    • Within 35 miles of the U.S. Capitol, or
    • Within 35 miles of the nearest district office.
  • The Committee measures distance in a direct line, or “as the crow flies.”

You may accept privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel within the district if House travelers from at least two other districts are also attending.

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     J. Acceptable Travel Expenses

You may only accept reasonable and necessary expenses actually incurred for privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.  Generally you may accept 1) transportation expenses, 2) food and lodging expenses, and 3) miscellaneous expenses.

[23]  House travelers may not accept per diem payments.  If an outlay is given, any unused portion must be returned.  This requirement is similar to the rules under which Members and staff travel on CODELs or STAFFDELs.  See House Rule 10, cl. 8(c)(2); see also Letter from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services (May 13, 2010) in Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Allegations Relating to the Use of Per Diems on Official Trips Staff Report, app. A, ex. 1 (Dec. 30, 2010) (Staff Report). 
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  • Transportation Expenses
    • You may accept economy or business class air or train travel
    • If you wish to accept first class air or train fare or charter airfare, your travel must meet certain conditions laid out in the Travel Regulations
    • If you drive your own vehicle, you must be reimbursed for mileage
    • You may pay to upgrade to a higher class of travel by using
      • Personal funds
      • Travel promotional awards or points
      • Principal campaign committee funds, as permitted by the FEC
[24]  First class travel, or travel on chartered aircraft, is permitted for exceptional circumstances, such as 1) the cost of the business or first class ticket is not more expensive than the economy class ticket, 2) the upgraded travel is necessary to accommodate a disability or special need, 3) genuine security circumstances require the travel, 4) scheduled travel time including layovers exceeds 14 hours, 5) a domestic flight departs before midnight and lands after 5am the following day, or 6) exceptional circumstances exist.  Exceptional circumstances do not include the unavailability of business or economy class seats or that first class or charter travel is more convenient for the House traveler’s schedule.
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[25]  House Rule 24 prohibits staff from supplementing officially-connected activity.  If, however, you choose to drive yourself for your own convenience, rather than accept the trip sponsor’s transportation offer, you are personally responsible for those expenses. 
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[26]  Leadership PAC funds may not be used to pay for travel upgrades for privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.
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  • Lodging and Meal Expenses
    • For travel without regard to congressional participation
      • Lodging and meals commensurate with what the other attendees will receive
    • For travel with regard to congressional participation
      • Lodging expenses are reviewed based on
        • Maximum per diem rate for that location
        • Proximity of the lodging to the sites being visited
        • Availability of lodging to accommodate the number of participants or conference requirements
        • Security concerns
        • Special needs of House travelers
        • Recommendation of a U.S. embassy for international travel
      • Meals expenses are reviewed based on
        • Maximum per diem rate for that location
[27]  Per diem rates are set by the Department of State for international travel and the General Services Administration for domestic travel.
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  • Miscellaneous Expenses
    • Room rental fees
    • Conference admission fees and materials
    • Interpretation fees
    • Visa fees
    • Security costs
    • Traveler’s insurance
    • Informational materials

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     K. Accompanying Relatives

You may bring one accompanying relative at the trip sponsor’s expense if that relative was invited by the Primary Trip Sponsor.  Accompanying relatives are over the age of 18 and

[28]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(4)(D).  The provision allowing relatives to accompany you rule was added on January 4, 2005.  See H. Res. 5, 109th Cong. (2005).  Previously the gift rule permitted a Member, officer, or employee to be accompanied by a “spouse or child” but not by any other relative. 
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  • Spouses
  • Children or step-children
  • Parents or step-parents
  • Siblings or half-siblings
  • Grandchildren
  • Mother- or father-in-law

If you would like to bring anyone else at the trip sponsor’s expense, you must write to the Committee for formal approval.

Even if the overall expense would be less for the trip sponsors to bring multiple relatives, you may only bring one accompanying relative at the trip sponsor’s expense. 

  • Example.  A Member is invited by organization Y to give a speech in Dallas on Saturday.  Organization Z issues an unrelated invitation to the Member to address its members in Dallas on Sunday.  Each group offers to pay expenses for the Member and one family member.  The Member may bring only one family member to Dallas at the sponsors’ expense.  The Member may not bring the Member’s spouse at the expense of organization Y and a child at the expense of organization Z.  This arrangement would violate the allowance for one accompanying relative.
  • Example. A Member is invited to give a speech.  The sponsoring organization offers the Member and the Member’s spouse business class airfare.  The Member would also like to bring the Member’s child.  The Member may not trade in the two business class tickets for three economy class tickets.  Even if the total expense for the trip sponsor would be less, the Member may not bring two accompanying relatives at the trip sponsor’s expense.  The Member would need to pay all of the travel expenses related to the child.

You may bring guests at your expense without formal approval from the Committee.  You or your guest is responsible for all expenses related to the guest.  You must receive approval from the Primary Trip Sponsor to bring additional guests.

Accompanying relatives must travel with you.  Therefore, an accompanying relative may not take more personal days, as discussed below, than you do.  Accompanying relatives may depart from and return to a different location than you, or arrive after or depart before you, but otherwise must accompany you during the trip. 

[29]  The Committee previously allowed spouse only privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel through its waiver authority in the House Gift Rule.  See 2008 House Ethics Manual at 102.  However, now all privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel is covered by the current Travel Regulations, and the Committee will not approve spouse-only travel that is offered because of the Member, officer, or employee.
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[30]  If the cost of the transportation for the accompanying relative to depart from or return to a different destination is more than what the trip sponsor is paying for other accompanying relatives, the traveler or the accompanying relative must pay the difference personally.
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     L. Changes at Personal Expense

          i. Extending at Personal Expense

You may add personal days to the beginning or the end of a privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip.  To extend at personal expense, the primary purpose of the trip must remain officially-connected.

  • To accept round-trip airfare from the trip sponsors, the maximum number of calendar days you may extend must be equal to or less than the number of full calendar days of programming with the trip sponsor.
  • If you would like to extend longer, you will be responsible for half of the transportation expenses. 
  • In all cases, you must pay for lodging and meals on the additional days.
  • If you add personal days to the start of a trip, the 30 day deadline will move up.
[31]  When traveling at your personal expense, you will not be able to use any rates that the trip sponsor may have negotiated for the rest of the privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip, because those discounts would be a gift to you that do not meet a gift exception.
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  • Example.  On an international trip, all of the travelers arrive at the destination on Monday afternoon.  Monday evening the travelers participate in a two hour dinner with the trip sponsor.  Tuesday through Friday the travelers spends 6-8 hours a day engaged in activities with the trip sponsor.  Saturday morning the rest of the travelers will return home, but Traveler A would like to stay a few extra days.  Because the trip had 4 full days of programming, Traveler A may stay 4 days and still accept roundtrip airfare from the trip sponsor.  However, if the roundtrip airfare is more expensive than for the other travelers because of the new travel dates, Traveler A must pay the difference personally.  Traveler A must request this extension on Traveler A’s Traveler Form due no later than 30 days before the start of the trip.
  • Example.  On a domestic trip where the trip sponsors employs a lobbyist, the travelers arrive at the destination Thursday evening before the officially-connected events begin Friday morning.  The rest of the travelers will return home Friday evening, but Traveler B would like to stay at the destination through the weekend.  Because Traveler B will be extending for more than one calendar day, Traveler B must pay for the return transportation, as well as the meals and lodging during the additional two days.  Traveler B must request this extension on Traveler B’s Traveler Form due no later than 30 days before the start of the trip.

          ii. Changes to Travel Itinerary at Personal Expense

You may depart from or return to a different location than the rest of the travelers.  You are responsible for any increase in trip costs, including any change fees, over what the trip sponsor is paying for the other travelers. 

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     M. Stacking Trips

You may travel beyond the 96 hour or 7 day limit for multiple trips that are consecutive but distinct.  The Committee calls these consecutive but distinct trips “stacked.”  To stack trips, the sponsors, the purpose, and participants must truly be distinct.  Common examples include

  • Participating in two privately-sponsored, officially-connected trips where the first trip ends the same day that the second trip begins.
  • Participating in a privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip, then leaving for personal vacation.
  • Participating in a trip paid for by a state government agency and then a privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip, where the state agency’s trip ends the day the privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip begins.
  • Participating in a CODEL or STAFFDEL and a privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip, where the private sponsor offers to pay for a side trip, and the purpose of the side trip is completely unrelated to the purpose of the CODEL or STAFFDEL.

If you are invited on, or plan to take, two or more trips that abut each other, please contact the Committee’s Office of Advice and Education at 202-225-7103 for guidance on what to report and how.

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     N. Travel for Members and Staff Leaving Office

Departing Members or staff wishing to travel after adjournment sine die should contact the Committee to determine whether a particular trip would still be related to the traveler’s official or representational duties.  For example, travel to give a speech may still be related, but travel for a fact-finding mission may not.

IV. Official Travel

     A. General Provisions

Official travel is travel paid for or authorized by the House.  Official travel includes travel paid for with the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) or committee funds, CODELs, and STAFFDELs.

The Committee on House Administration oversees travel paid for with MRA or committee funds.  If you or your Member would like to travel within the United States and use House funds, you may contact the Democratic staff at 202-225-2061 or the Republican staff at 202-225-8281.  The Committee and the Committee on House Administration also issued joint guidance about official travel.

CODELs and STAFFDELs are official travel to a foreign country and must be authorized by the Speaker or a committee chair.  For questions about CODELs and STAFFDELs, please call the Office of Interparliamentary Affairs at 202-226-1766.

Travel paid for with official funds does not need to be pre-approved by the Committee or reported on your annual financial disclosure statement.

[32]  See House Rule 1, cl. 10 (Speaker authorized travel); House Rule 10, cl 8 (funding of foreign travel); House Rule 24, cl. 10 (prohibiting travel by Member not re-elected after general election or sine die adjournment; 22 U.S.C. § 1754(b) (funding for foreign travel).
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[33]  Travel paid for with official funds is not subject to the Committee’s Travel Regulations and does not need to be reported within 15 days of return.  Additionally, travel paid for with official funds does not need to be reported on annual financial disclosure statements.
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     B. No Private Subsidy of Official Travel

As discussed in the privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel section, outside entities may not pay for official travel, whether monetary or in-kind. 

[34]  House Rule 24, cls. 1-3 prohibit outside supplementation, both monetary and in-kind, for official House business.  However, local transportation expenses that Members, officers, and employees may accept under the House Gift Rule are permitted (e.g., local transportation for a widely-attended event).  See generally House Rule 25, cl. 5. 
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House funds and privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel may not be co-mingled.  For example

  • Example.  A committee chairman decided to fund Member travel to a conference with committee funds.  The sponsor of the conference offers to provide lodging and meals for the Members without charge.  The Members may not accept the sponsor’s office.  Because official funds will be used for the airfare, the trip is an official trip.  Therefore, acceptance of the sponsor’s offer would be an impermissible private subsidy of official activity.
  • Example.  A Member plans to travel to a conference using MRA funds.  The sponsor of the conference invites one of the Member’s employees to travel to the conference at the sponsor’s expense.  The employee may not travel to the conference at the sponsor’s expense.  Because the Member is using official funds, the Member determined that attendance at the conference is an official activity. 

You may accept gifts that are allowed under the House Gift Rule, even while on official travel. 

  • Example.  At the same conference as the previous example, the conference sponsor instead offers to comp the Member and employee’s registration fees.  Assuming attendance at the conference meets the requirements for a widely-attended event, the Member and employee may accept the comped registration fees, but still pay for transportation, lodging, and meals outside the conference using official funds. 

Please see the Committee’s guidance on gifts for further information.  

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     C. Official Travel Using Campaign Funds

Generally, a Member may pay for official travel for the Member or the Member’s employees using the Member’s principal campaign committee funds.  The Member may pay for travel for personal office staff and for committee staff using principal campaign committee funds.

[35]  House Rule 24, cl. 1(b)(1) allows Members to use principal campaign committee funds to defray official expenses.  Members, however, may not use principal campaign committee funds to defray certain enumerated official expenses.  Those specific exclusions are 1) mail or other communications, 2) compensation for services, 3) office space, 4) office furniture, 5) office equipment, or 6) any associated information technology services, excluding handheld communications devices.  House Rule 24, cl. 1(b)(2). 

Additionally, because the Committee has overlapping jurisdiction with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over the use of principal campaign committee funds for official expenses, anyone wishing to use principal campaign committee funds for official expenses allowed under House Rule 24 should also confer with the FEC’s congressional liaisons at 202-694-1006 to ensure that it meets the FEC’s relevant tests.  The Committee understands that travel for an official purpose generally meets the FEC’s test, but travel questions are fact-specific and changes in facts could change the guidance you receive.
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     D. Official Travel Using Personal Funds

Members may use their own personal funds to pay for official travel.  Members may pay for their own travel, or travel of their employees.

Employees may not use personal funds to pay for official travel.  The employee’s Member must reimburse any expenses that employee incurs for official travel.

[36]  House Rule 24, cl. 1 prohibits the use of staff’s personal funds for official activities.  Members, however, are personally responsible for expenses that exceed the MRA.  See Comm. on House Admin., Members’ Congressional Handbook.  Therefore, Members’ use of their personal funds for official activities is not considered private subsidy of official business.
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V. Travel for Political Purposes

You may accept travel paid for by a political organization for a political fundraiser or campaign event sponsored by that political organization.  For the purpose of the House Gift Rule. political organizations are those recognized under § 527(e) of the Internal Revenue Code. 

[37]  House Rule 15, cl. 5(a)(3)(G)(iii).
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[38]  § 527 organizations are organized and operated primarily for the purpose of accepting contributions or making expenditures for the purpose of influencing the election of any individual to a public or political office.  See 25 U.S.C. § 527.

If you are traveling for a campaign or political purpose and your campaign committee, or another candidate’s campaign committee is paying for travel expenses, you may not make the travel arrangements in the official, congressional office or using any congressional resources. 

  • Example.  A Member is traveling for a campaign fundraiser.  The Member asks the official, congressional scheduler to help make travel arrangements.  The official, congressional scheduler may not make those arrangements while on House grounds (including the district office), or using congressional resources.  The official, congressional scheduler may, in his or her own time, schedule the Member’s campaign-related travel.  The congressional scheduler must be willing to assist the campaign and may not be told to schedule that campaign-related travel as a condition of the scheduler’s congressional employment.

If you are a financial disclosure filer, you will only need to report travel paid for by a federal political organization on your annual financial disclosure statements if that federal political organization did not properly report the travel on its FEC expenditure reports.  You will, however, have to report travel paid for by a state or local political organization on annual financial disclosure statements. 

If you are offered travel on a non-commercial aircraft for campaign purposes, please call the Committee and the FEC.  As discussed in Travel on Non-Commercial Aircraft, travel on private planes for campaign purposes is very restricted.

If you are traveling for a campaign or political purpose, but a third party offers to pay for the travel, please contact the FEC, or the state’s election authority if for a state campaign purpose.  Payment by the third party could be considered a campaign contribution.

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VI. Mixed-Purpose Travel

You may participate in travel with more than one purpose.  For example, you may want to extend a privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip at personal expense, or you may want to participate in campaign activity at the end of an official trip paid for with House funds.  To determine which funds pay for which activity, you should determine which purpose is the primary purpose of the trip. 

The funds associated with the primary purpose should pay for the transportation to and from the destination, and the other travel expenses related to that purpose.  The funds associated with the secondary purpose should pay for the expenses related to that secondary purpose.

Although you may determine the primary purpose and any additional purposes, you should make that decision in a reasonable manner.  Possible ways to make that determination include

  • The number of days devoted to each purpose
  • The main reason for taking the trip
  • Whether you would be in that location if not for the trip

You may also stack trips together that have separate and distinct purposes.  If you would like to stack trips, please contact the Committee to determine how to split expenses.  You may also need to contact the Committee on House Administration or the FEC.

As discussed in privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel, you may not stack campaign-related travel with privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.  You also may not extend a privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip for a campaign purpose.

  • Example.  You plan to travel to the district for official meetings.  During one evening of that trip, you plan to assist with a political fundraiser for your Member.  You would like to know whether you may use the MRA to pay for any portion of your travel expenses, including your plane ticket and your hotel room.  You should call the Committee on House Administration to ask whether and for what you may use the MRA.  You might be able to use your Member’s principal campaign committee funds for any expenses the MRA may not cover.  You should also call the FEC’s congressional liaisons to ask whether you could also use principal campaign funds. 

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VII. Travel for Personal Purposes

     A. Travel Paid for by Relatives

You may accept travel offered by a relative. 

[39]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(C).  “Relative” means your father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, great aunt, great uncle, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother, half-sister, the grandfather or grandmother of your spouse, or your fiancé(e).  5 U.S.C. app. § 109(16).  This list is a much more exhaustive than the list of relatives that may accompany you on privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.  For that list, please see the Committee’s Travel Regulations.
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If, however, your relative is only the conduit, meaning another entity offers you travel, but through your relative, the gift would still come from the other entity.  In that instance, you may not rely on the gift exception for gifts from a relative.  But, you may be able to accept the travel under a different gift exception.

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     B. Travel Offered on the Basis of Personal Friendship

Personal friends may offer to pay for your travel expenses for personal purposes.  Personal purposes do not include conducting House business or campaign activity.

Just like with other gifts of personal friendship, if the travel is more than $250, you must write in to the Committee for formal permission to accept the gift.  If the travel is $250 or less, you may determine for yourself that your friend offered it based on personal friendship.  The Committee expects you to use the same criteria the Committee does to determine if the offer was made based on personal friendship.  When determining the value for travel, you should look at the trip as a whole.  Consider the transportation and any lodging or meals not covered by the personal hospitality exception.

[40]  Specifically you should consider 1) the nature of your relationship, including any previous exchanges of gifts; 2) whether your friend will use personal funds to pay for the trip; and 3) whether your friend made the same offer to any other Member, officer, or employee.  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(D).  Gifts offered because of your official position, or where your friend will be seeking a tax deduction or business reimbursement, are not gifts offered based on personal friendship.  Id.
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If you file financial disclosure statements and you accept a trip based on personal friendship that is above the reporting threshold, you must report that trip on Schedule G (“Gifts”) of your annual statement.

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     C. Lodging and Meals under Personal Hospitality

You may accept lodging and meals in someone’s home in certain circumstances.  The home or building may not belong to a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent.  Additionally, the home or building may not be used for business purposes, including for official meetings or if the residents rent out the home for vacation rentals. 

[41]  Gifts of personal hospitality include lodging and meals “extended for a nonbusiness purpose by an individual, not a corporation or organization, at the personal residence of that individual or his family or on property or facilities owned by that individual or his family,” where the individual is not a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent.  5 U.S.C. app. § 109(14); House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(P). 
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[42]  The Committee looks to who resides in the home.  For example, if someone is renting an apartment or house, the renter may not be a lobbyist or foreign agent, regardless of who may own that building.  If, however, the home is owner-occupied, then the owner of the home may not be a lobbyist or foreign agent.
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This exception only applies to staying in the home and meals eaten in the home.  The exception does not apply to going out to dinner while staying at someone’s house.  A meal outside the home would need to meet a different gift exception.

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     D. Travel for Professional Development Opportunities or Fellowships

You may be able to participate in professional development or fellowship opportunities that pay for travel expenses or scholarships.  Common examples of professional development and fellowships include

  • Young Leaders programs
  • Continuing education opportunities
  • Networking opportunities
  • Exchange programs

Travel that is completely unrelated to your House employment is discussed in Travel Related to Outside Activities

If your House position was a factor in the decision to offer you travel for professional development or a fellowship, you must write in to the Committee and receive formal permission to accept the travel expenses.  Examples of your House position potentially being a factor include

[43]  If you cannot say for certain that your House employment was not a factor in the decision-making process, then the gift exception for travel related to outside activities would not apply.  See, e.g., House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(G)(i) (allowing food, refreshments, lodging, transportation, and other benefits for outside business or employment activities if not offered or enhanced because of the Member, officer, or employee’s official position).  The Committee may be able to give you a waiver of the gift rule to accept the opportunity.  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(T).
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  • Submitting your resume with your application
  • Listing your House position on an application
  • Being nominated by someone you’ve worked with officially
  • Submitting letters of a recommendation from a Member, officer, or employee with your application

The Committee recommends you request approval as soon as the program’s sponsor offers to pay for your expenses to ensure the Committee has sufficient time to review your request.

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     E. Travel to Attend Charity Fundraisers

You may be able to accept lodging and transportation in connection with a charity fundraiser.  To accept, the event and the offer of travel expenses must meet the following criteria.

  • All of the net proceeds of the event must benefit a § 501(c)(3) organization,
  • The transportation and lodging expenses must be paid by the benefitting § 501(c)(3) organization, and
  • The offer to attend the event must be extended by the benefitting § 501(c)(3) organization.
[44]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(4)(C)(i)-(iii). 
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You may accept expenses that are reasonably necessary to participate in the event.  Generally that means you may accept one night’s lodging.

You may only accept transportation and lodging expenses directly from the benefitting § 501(c)(3) organization, not from a sponsor of or participant at the fundraiser.  Additionally, you may not accept transportation and lodging expenses from the benefitting § 501(c)(3) organization if those expenses would be paid for using donations that are earmarked for congressional participants. 

[45]  The prohibition on the § 501(c)(3) organization using funds earmarked for congressional participants includes fund that are formally and informally earmarked for the payment of expenses related to congressional participants.  Consistent with this interpretation, for example, a Member, officer, or employee traveling to a charity event under these rules may not accept a flight on a corporate aircraft that is flying corporate officials to the event, even if the charity reimburses the corporation for the flight.  Aside from concerns on whether a corporation may lawfully accept such a reimbursement under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, a donor to a charity event should have no role in providing travel to a participating Member, officer, or employee.
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Although organizations that are not § 501(c)(3) organizations may organize events that meet the charity fundraiser exception to accept an offer of free attendance and a meal, those non-§ 501(c)(3) event organizers could not pay for your travel expenses under this exception. 

[46]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(4)(C).  As discussed in the Gifts section of the Committee’s guidance, you may accept an offer of free attendance at a charity fundraiser, as long as you are invited by the event organizer directly and the event is to benefit an organization qualified under § 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Free attendance includes waiver of the ticket price; the food, refreshments, and entertainment at the event; local transportation; and a second ticket for a spouse or dependent child.  Therefore, it is possible to accept free attendance at an event but not be able to accept an offer of long-distance transportation and lodging for that same event.  
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  • Example.  You are invited to a charity fundraiser in another city.  The event organizer is a corporate sponsor, but the event will benefit an organization that is recognized under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  The event organizer offers to pay for your airfare and lodging to participate in the event.  Although you may accept the offer of free attendance, you may not accept the transportation and lodging expenses because the event organizer is not a § 501(c)(3) organization.
  • Example.  A nationally-recognized charity is having its annual gala in another city.  The charity offers you two tickets to the fundraiser and lodging and airfare to attend the event.  The charity also offers lodging and airfare to your spouse.  You and your spouse may accept the lodging and airfare, in addition to the offer of free attendance at the event. 

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     F. Travel to Accept Honorary Degrees

If you are offered an honorary degree, you may also accept travel expenses that may be offered for the degree’s presentation.  The travel expenses you may accept include transportation, lodging, meals, refreshments, and entertainment.

[47]  House Rule 15, cl. 5(a)(3)(K).  Although the rule allows you to accept bona fide non-monetary public service awards, the rule only allows you to accept travel expenses related to honorary degrees.
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     G. Travel Related to Outside Activities

If you are offered travel that is unrelated to your official position, you may be able to accept the offer if it was not offered or enhanced because of your position with the House. 

[48] House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(G).
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          i. Outside Activities

You may accept travel expenses related to your outside activities.  The travel expenses must be the same that are offered to others similarly situated. 

[49] House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(i).
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  • Example.  You are on the board of a charitable organization.  Each quarter the charitable organization pays for its board members to travel to its headquarters for the quarterly board meeting.  All of the board members are offered the same travel expenses.  You may accept those travel expenses.
  • Example.  You recently wrote and published a book.  The Committee approved your publishing contract.  Now your publisher is planning a book tour to promote your book and will pay for your travel expenses.  The publisher plans to pay for the same travel expenses it would for any other author of similar fame and stature.  You may accept those travel expenses.
[50]  As discussed in the Outside Activity section of the Committee’s guidance, the Committee must review and approve publishing contracts for Members and senior staff.  Staff who are not paid at the senior staff rate do not need Committee approval of a publishing contract, but may still accept travel expenses to promote the book, as long as those travel expenses are not offered or enhanced because of the staff’s House position and are the same expenses offered to other similarly situated authors.  Members and senior staff who may have written books prior to joining the House may also accept travel expenses to promote their books, if the offer conforms with all of the same requirements.  Travel expenses, whether reimbursed or paid upfront, are not the same as honoraria.  Members and senior staff still may not accept honorarium, regardless of the source or purpose.  House Rule 25, cl. 1(a)(2).  Staff who are not senior staff are also restricted in their ability to accept honoraria.  Id. 
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  • Example.  Same example as before, but you would like to stay a few extra days before returning home.  You may extend your trip if the publisher allows other similarly-situated authors to extend their travel on similar terms.
  • Example.  Your child is a scout.  All of the local scout troops are going to the Grand Canyon for a weeklong trip.  The regional scout organization offers to pay your airfare if you will chaperone the scouts during the trip.  You may accept those travel expenses.

If you file annual financial disclosure statements, you must report these travel expenses on Schedule H (“Travel Payments and Reimbursements”) if the value of the travel expenses exceeds the reporting threshold.

          ii. Prospective Employers

You may accept travel expenses from a prospective employer that are customarily provided by that employer for bona fide employment discussions.  If you file annual financial disclosure statements, you must report these travel expenses on Schedule H (“Travel Payments and Reimbursements”) if the value of the travel expenses exceeds the reporting threshold.

[51] House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(G)(ii).
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[52] Even if you accept the prospective employer’s offer of employment, you would still need to report those travel expenses on your annual or termination financial disclosure statement, if the travel expenses were accepted while you were still on House payroll and exceed the reporting threshold.
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          iii. Accompanying Spouses

You may accept travel expenses to accompany your spouse on trips related to your spouse’s employment or outside activities. 

[53] House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(G)(iii).
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  • Example.  Your spouse is a lawyer with a private law firm.  Each year, the firm invites all of its lawyers and their spouses to a weekend retreat at a resort hotel.  This retreat is offered to your spouse regardless of who you are.  You may accompany your spouse and accept the law firm’s payment of travel expenses.
  • Example.  Your spouse is a flight attendant with an airline that offers free travel all of its employees and their immediate families when seats are available.  You may accept the free flights. 

If you file annual financial disclosure statements, you must report these travel expenses on Schedule H (“Travel Payments and Reimbursements”) if the value of the travel expenses exceeds the reporting threshold.     

[54] To determine value when accompanying spouses, you should look to the extra expenses the outside organization paid on your behalf. For example, if your spouse’s company would have paid for a hotel room whether you went on the trip or not, the hotel room is not a gift to you. However, your airfare, your meals, and any additional expenses related to the lodging would need to be added to determine whether the value exceeds the reporting threshold. You may include a comment on your financial disclosure statement that you accompanied your spouse.
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VIII. Business Site Visits

You may accept local transportation to visit a business site in your official capacity.  Specifically, you may accept

[55] Although not enumerated in the House Gift Rule, the Committee exercised its waiver authority to allow for local transportation outside of the District of Columbia and meals incident to a business site visit.
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  • Local transportation, outside of the District of Columbia, to the business site, and
    • The travel must not start or end in the District of Columbia
    • Includes travel from the local airport or other terminus to the business site
    • Local transportation means within 35 miles.
  • Meals offered by the management of the site being visited
    • Meal must be on that business’s premises
    • Meal must be in a group setting with employees of the organization, not just board members 
       
  • Example.  A local business invites you to tour its facility.  Part of the tour includes a cafeteria where all of the facility’s employees eat lunch together.  You may eat lunch in the facility’s cafeteria with the other employees as part of the business site visit.
  • Example.  Your district relies heavily on the local waterways, including an extensive locks system.  The company that manages the locks invites you to tour the locks system.  To see the entire system, you must travel by boat through the locks.  You will board the boat at the north end of the system and disembark at the south end of the system.  You may accept that local transportation as part of the business site visit.

For travel expenses that are more than just local transportation and an on-site meal, you may need to seek pre-approval for privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel

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IX. Point A to Point A Travel

You may accept Point A to Point A travel.  Point A to Point A travel is travel that begins and ends in the same location, without any intermediary stops.  To accept Point A to Point A travel, you must be traveling in your official capacity on behalf of the House.  Point A to Point A travel that complies with these restrictions does not have monetary value.

  • Example.  A local organization invites House staff to tour a local river to see how federal funds have helped the health of the river improve.  The local organization offers to take the staff on its boat, which will depart and return to the same dock without disembarking during the tour.  Because the staff will participate in their official capacities and the boat tour will not make intermediary stops, staff may accept this Point A to Point A travel.
  • Example.  A lumber company in the district invites a Member to tour its operations.  Because the lumber company’s land is so vast, the best way to view it is from the air.  The lumber company offers to take the Member in the company’s helicopter to view the site.  The helicopter will depart from and return to the same location, without any stops.  The Member may accept this Point A to Point A travel.
  • Example.  A local non-profit is planning a whistle-stop tour across the district to recognize the 100th anniversary of a regional railroad.  The tour will be on a restored train and will stop at local train depots throughout the region.  The non-profit invites a Member to travel with them on the tour.  Because the train will make stops along the way, the Member may not accept this travel as Point A to Point A travel.  The Member may be able to accept the travel under a different section discussed in this manual.
  • Example.  A Member is invited to an aircraft test facility in her district.  The test facility offers to let the Member ride in the cockpit during a test flight, which will take off and return to the same location.  She may accept travel on the private aircraft during the test flight because it is Point A to Point A.  Because the test flight will take off and land in the same location, she may accept travel on the private aircraft during the test flight.

The mode of transportation for Point A to Point A travel does not change this guidance.  As long as the travel meets these requirements, the Point A to Point A travel can be in a car, on an airplane, in a boat, on a helicopter, or on a train.  Point A to Point A travel can be on privately-owned modes of transportation, including privately-owned aircraft.

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X. Travel Paid for by Federal, State, or Local Governments

You may accept travel that is paid for by a federal, state, or local governmental entity, or secured under a government contract.  You do not need to seek prior approval from the Committee to accept this travel.  Under this exception, you may accept transportation, meals, and lodging from the government entity.  If you file financial disclosure reports, you do not need to report travel paid for by a federal, state, or local governmental entity, or secured under a government contract.

[56]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(O).  This rule also allows Members, officers, and employees to accept gifts, including travel, that are “secured by the Government under a Government contract.”  “Government contracts” under this provision mean federal government contracts.  See, e.g., 5 C.F.R. § 2635.203(7); 57 Fed. Reg. 35,014 (Aug. 7, 1992) (“The exclusion is intended to cover items the Government procures for use by its employees under a Government contract or knowingly obligates itself to pay for.”).
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You may only accept these travel expenses directly from the government entity, not through a third party such as a registered federal lobbyist, or where the government entity is merely a conduit for the third party.

[57]  See Comm. on Rules, Amending the Rules of the House of Representative to Provide for Gift Reform, H.R. Rep. No. 104-337, at 11 (1995).
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To determine if an entity is a governmental entity, the Committee looks to whether the entity is treated as a government agency for other purposes. 

The Committee considers these entities to be government entities.

  • United States federal government
  • United States state governments
  • United States municipal governments, including municipal airports
  • Commonwealths and territories of the United States
  • Smithsonian Institute
  • Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • California Joint Powers Authorities such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
  • Public universities, including Pennsylvania state-related universities
[58]  See Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 6500-6599.3.
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[59]  See 22 Pa. Code § 31.2 (Pennsylvania state-related universities are instrumentalities of the commonwealth).
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The Committee does not consider these entities to be government entities.

  • Native American tribes
  • Amtrak
  • Regional Federal Home Loan Banks
[60]  The Committee considered this matter carefully and found nothing in the legislative history of the current gift rule or its predecessors indicating an intent to treat Native American tribes as state or local government entities for these purposes.  The Committee also does not consider Native American tribes to be foreign governments.
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[61]  “Amtrak is not a department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States Government. . .” 49 U.S.C. § 24301(a)(3). 
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These lists are not exhaustive.  Please contact the Committee if you have any questions about whether an entity is part of the government.

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XI. Travel Allowed by Other Gift Rule Exceptions

     A. Local Transportation for Widely-Attended Events and Charity Fundraisers

You may accept local transportation from the event organizer of a widely-attended event or a  charity fundraiser, assuming the event meets all of the requirements.  Local transportation means within 35 miles of the U.S. Capitol or the nearest district office.

[62]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(4)(D).  The requirements for a widely-attended event and a charity fundraiser are discussed further in the gifts section.
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     B. Widely-Available Opportunities

You may accept local transportation that is routinely offered to a group or class unrelated to your House position.

[63] House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(R).
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  • Example.  You were invited to speak on a weekly news show.  The television station routinely sends a car to pick up its guests staying nearby.  The television station offers to pick you up from your home that is near the station.  You may accept the offer of local transportation from the television station.

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     C. Less than $50

You may accept travel expenses, including transportation and meals, if the total for the travel expenses is less than $50 per person, and the organization sponsoring the travel does not employ or retain a registered federal lobbyist.

[64]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(1)(B)(i).  Gifts under the “less than $50” exception have an annual limit of less than $100.  The limit is per donor, per recipient.  Id.  Gifts that are allowed under different exceptions to the House Gift Rule are not rolled into the less than $100 limit.
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  • Example.  You were invited on a tour of healthcare facilities in the immediate DC area.  The sponsoring organization does not employ or retain a registered federal lobbyist.  The sponsoring organization would like to pay for a bus for the day and provide lunch.  The total value of the bus and lunch per person is $40.  You may accept the offer.

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XII. Travel Paid for by a Foreign Government

     A. General Provisions

The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution limits your ability to accept travel from foreign governments.  The Emoluments Clause prohibits you, as a federal government official, from receiving “any present . . . of any kind whatever” from a foreign government or its representative without the consent of Congress. 

[65]  U.S. Const. Art. I, § 9, cl. 8.
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Congress consented to travel from foreign governments in two main ways, the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act (FGDA) and the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (MECEA).  House rules also allow you to accept travel from a foreign government under FGDA or MECEA.    

[66]  Congress consented to other programs outside of FGDA and MECEA, including the U.S.-Korea National Assembly Exchange Program.  However, FGDA and MECEA are the most common methods that foreign governments use to offer Members, officers, and staff travel. 
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[67]  Members, officers, and employees may accept “[a]n item, the receipt of which is authorized by [FGDA], [MECEA], or any other statute.”  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(N).
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A trip under FGDA or MECEA may not be turned into a privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip by changing who manages the trip planning.  If a foreign government contracts with a private organization to plan or organize travel, the private organization operates at the direction of the foreign government.  As a reminder, you, as a Member, officer, or employee, are subject to the Emoluments Clause and other Constitutional provisions discussed throughout.  Therefore, you are responsible for ensuring you only accept permissible gifts.

[68]  See Comm. on Ethics, In the Matters of Allegations Relating to Travel to Taiwan by Representatives William Owens and Peter Roskam in 2011, H.R. Rep. 113-226 (2013).
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Foreign government entities can mean much more than just the foreign federal government.  Foreign governments include foreign state or municipal governments, quasi-governmental organizations that are closely affiliated with or funded by foreign governments, and private organizations that are closely affiliated with or funded by foreign governments.

[69]  To determine whether an organization is part of a foreign government, the Committee looks to a number of factors including the level to which the organization is funded by a foreign government, whether the organization is controlled by a foreign government, and whether another U.S. government agency determined the organization is part of a foreign government.  Organizations that meet the definition of foreign government may not offer privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.  Members, officers, and employees may only accept travel expenses from organizations that meet this definition under FGDA or MECEA.  See Comm. on Ethics, In the Matter of Officially-Connected Travel by House Members to Azerbaijan in 2013, H.R. Rep. 114-239 (2015); Comm. on Ethics, In the Matters of Allegations Relating to Travel to Taiwan by Representatives William Owens and Peter Roskam in 2011, H.R. Rep. 113-226 (2013).
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     B. Travel under FGDA

The FGDA gave the Committee the authority to issue regulations that apply to all House Members, officers, and employees. 

[70]  5 U.S.C. § 7342(g)(1).  The Committee is the House’s “employing agency” for the purposes of FGDA.  Id. at (a)(6)(A).
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Under FGDA, “foreign government” means

  • Any unity of a foreign government, including national, state, local, and municipal governments;
  • Any international or multinational organization whose membership is comprised of units of foreign governments, including
    • United Nations
    • European Union
    • North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO-PA
    • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe;
  • An agent or representative of the government or organization while acting in that capacity;
  • Quasi-governmental organizations closely affiliated with, or funded by, foreign governments.
[71]  To determine whether an organization is part of a foreign government, the Committee looks to a number of factors including the level to which the organization is funded by a foreign government, whether the organization is controlled by a foreign government, and whether another U.S. government agency determined the organization is part of a foreign government.  Organizations that meet the definition of foreign government may not offer privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.  Members, officers, and employees may only accept travel expenses from organizations that meet this definition under FGDA or MECEA.  See Comm. on Ethics, In the Matter of Officially-Connected Travel by House Members to Azerbaijan in 2013, H.R. Rep. 114-239 (2015); Comm. on Ethics, In the Matters of Allegations Relating to Travel to Taiwan by Representatives William Owens and Peter Roskam in 2011, H.R. Rep. 113-226 (2013) 
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You may only accept travel from a foreign government under FGDA if you are already outside the United States and you are traveling in your official capacity.

You may accept

  • In-country travel expenses, including lodging, meals, and in-country transportation; or
  • Transportation leaving or returning to different a foreign country to visit the host country.
     
  • Example.  You may accept local transportation from the host country to inspect a site near where you are traveling on a CODEL or STAFFDEL.
  • Example.  You may accept lodging and a meal from the host country before addressing that country’s legislature.
  • Example.  You may accept in-country airfare from the host country to visit another area of the country for fact-finding purposes while on a STAFFDEL.
  • Example.  You may accept transportation from the host country to leave or return to a different foreign country to visit the host country.

You may not accept

  • Travel leaving from or returning to the United States to visit the host country;
  • Transportation or lodging in the United States;
  • Travel expenses, including in-country expenses, from the host country while on personal travel, campaign travel, or an academic exchange; or
  • Travel expenses from a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent.
[72] If a foreign government is directly paying for the travel, the foreign government is the donor and the travel must comply with FGDA or MECEA. If a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent is using funds from its own account to pay for travel expenses or reimbursement, you may not accept those expenses or reimbursement.
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You may not circumvent the limitations on travel under FGDA by traveling to a location just outside the United States and having the foreign government then pay for your transportation.  You must have an official reason for being in the location where the foreign government begins paying for your travel expenses.

Your spouse or dependent children may also accept travel expenses from a foreign government under FGDA if they are traveling with you.  Your spouse and dependent children also may not accept travel for purely personal purposes.

[73] 5 U.S.C. § 7342(a)(1)(G).
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You do not need Committee pre-approval, but you must report any FGDA travel within 30 days of leaving the foreign country.  You must report FGDA travel regardless of the value of those travel expenses.  When you return from your trip, you must complete the FGDA Disclosure Form and return it to the Committee.  The Department of State makes FGDA disclosures public in the Federal Register each year.  If you file annual financial disclosure statements, you do not need to disclose FGDA travel on your annual statement that is properly reported to the Committee on the FGDA Disclosure Form.

[74] 5 U.S.C. § 7342(f)(1).
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  • Example.  The Chinese Agricultural Ministry invites the Members of the Agriculture Committee on a ten-day tour of Chinese farm cooperatives.  The tour is not part of an approved MECEA program.  The Members may, consistent with FGDA, accept expenses for themselves and their spouses while they are in China.  The Members and the spouses may not accept airfare to and from China at the expense of the Chinese government.  The Members must disclose the receipt of these expenses for themselves and their spouses on the FGDA disclosure form within 30 days of leaving China.  The Members do not need to report the trip on their annual financial disclosure statements.

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     C. Travel under MECEA

You may accept travel to a foreign country from a foreign government that has a MECEA agreement with the United States.  MECEA travel is for cultural exchanges.  The Department of State negotiates MECEA agreements with foreign governments.  Therefore, any travel offered under MECEA must comport with the agreement on file with the Department of State.  You may not accept MECEA travel within the United States.

[75] 22 U.S.C. § 2458a.
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You do not need Committee pre-approval for MECEA travel and MECEA travel is not subject to the same time limits as privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.  You should, however, contact the Department of State to ensure the travel you were offered is covered by the MECEA agreement with that foreign government.  If you file annual financial disclosure statements, you must report any MECEA trips on Schedule H (“Travel Payments and Reimbursements”) of your annual statement.

Only you may accept MECEA travel.  MECEA agreements do not allow your spouse, children, or any other accompanying guests to travel with you at the expense of the foreign government. 

[76] Id. at (a)(1)(C).
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  • Example.  A public university in Germany invites a Member to attend a two-week seminar and discussion series with German leaders at the school.  The trip falls under an approved MECEA agreement.  The Member may accept expenses for travel to and from Germany and related expenses for the Member’s two-week stay.  If the Member would like to bring a family member, the Member must do so at personal expense.  The Member must disclosure the trip on the Member’s annual financial disclosure statement.

 

XIII. Travel on Non-Commercial Aircraft

Generally, you may not travel on non-commercial aircraft unless the House Rules allow it. 

[77] House Rule 23, cl. 15(a).
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Travel on non-commercial aircraft is very strictly regulated, and very fact-specific.  Non-commercial aircraft includes chartered aircraft, leasing services such as NetJets, and privately- or corporate-owned aircraft.  Additionally, candidates for the House may be even more limited in their ability to accept travel on non-commercial aircraft.  Although ways to accept travel on non-commercial aircraft are discussed in this section, we highly recommend you call the Committee before accepting any travel on non-commercial aircraft.

[78] 52 U.S.C. § 30114(c).
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     A. Reimbursement for Travel on Non-Commercial Aircraft

House Rule 23, clause 15 governs reimbursement for travel on non-commercial aircraft.  Although this rule allows reimbursement in certain circumstances, you may still need to check with the Committee on House Administration or the FEC if you would like to use something other than personal funds to reimburse for travel on a non-commercial aircraft.

Under House Rules, you may reimburse for travel on a non-commercial aircraft when

[79] House Rule 23, cl. 15(b).
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  • The aircraft is operated by an air carrier or commercial operator with a proper license from a government (e.g., travel on a commercial airline or chartered aircraft);
  • The flight is offered to the Member, in the Member’s personal capacity, by a personal friend or another Member;
  • The aircraft is operated by a federal, state, or local government;
  • The aircraft is owned or leased by a Member or a family member of a Member; or
[80] “Family member” for purposes of this rule is defined as the Member’s spouse, parents, children, siblings, and parents-in-law. House Rule 23, cl. 15(d)(2).
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  • Including an aircraft owned by an entity that is not a public corporation where the Member or the family member has an ownership interest, provided that the Member does not use the aircraft any more than the Member or family member’s proportionate share of ownership allows.
  • The owner or operator of the aircraft is paid a pro rata share of the fair market value of the normal and usual charter fare or rental charge for a comparable plane of comparable size as determined by dividing the cost by the number of Members, Delegates, or the Resident Commissioner, officers, or employees of Congress on the flight. 
  • For example, if a non-commercial aircraft flight cost $25,000 and only one Member is on the flight, the Member’s pro rata share of the flight is $25,000, regardless of the number of non-congressional travelers on the plane.  

     B. Gifts of Travel on Non-Commercial Aircraft

Gifts of travel on non-commercial aircraft are considered gifts under the House Gift Rule.  Therefore, you may only accept travel on non-commercial aircraft without reimbursement if the gift meets one of the gift exceptions. 

[81]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(1)(A)(i).  Impermissible travel on non-commercial aircraft has been the subject of Committee investigations over the years.  See Comm. on Ethics, In the Matter of Allegations Relating to Representative Don Young, H.R. Rep. 113-487 (2014) (improper personal use of campaign funds for and improper gifts of travel on private aircraft for personal travel); Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, Investigation of Travel on Corporate Aircraft Taken by Representative Dan Daniel, H.R. Rep. 99-470 (1986) (improper acceptance of travel on corporate aircraft for official travel).  The Committee issued guidance concerning travel on non-commercial aircraft that is incorporated in this manual.  Comm. on Ethics, Non-Commercial Aircraft Travel (Apr. 10, 2019).
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          i. Acceptance of Travel Provided by a Relative

You may accept gifts from your relatives.  If you are a candidate for the House traveling for campaign purposes, however, “relatives” means only the candidate and the candidate’s immediate family, including a spouse, parent, child, sibling, or parent-in-law.

[82] House Rule 25, clause 5(a)(3)(C).
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[83] Candidates for the House, traveling as candidates, may only accept travel on non-commercial aircraft if that aircraft is owned by the candidate or the candidate’s immediate family, including a spouse, parents, children, siblings, and parents-in-law. 52 U.S.C. § 30114(c)(3)(B).
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  • Example.  Your father owns a private plane and offers the use of that plane for commuting back and forth to the district.  You may accept the flights on that private aircraft from your relatives. 

          ii. Acceptance of Travel Provided on the Basis of Personal Friendship 

You may accept travel on non-commercial aircraft that meets the requirements for gifts based on personal friendship.  Additional considerations include

  • As a general matter, the personal friendship provision only applies if the aircraft is owned by the individual, and does not apply to a flight on an aircraft owned by a corporation or other entity, where the individual does not have access to the aircraft for personal purposes.
  • The Committee must formally approve gifts based on personal friendship that exceed $250.  Practically any flight on a non-commercial aircraft will exceed $250 in value and will require Committee approval.
[84]  The value of a flight on a non-commercial aircraft is to be determined as follows.  When the travel is via a previously or regularly-scheduled flight by the owner or operator of the aircraft, and the airports between which the Member or staff person is flying have regularly-scheduled air service (regardless of whether such service is direct), the value of the use of the aircraft is the cost of a first-class ticket from the airport of departure to the airport of destination.  If only the coach rates are provided between those points, the value is the coach rate.  If more than one first-class rate is available, the lowest fare may be used.  However, no discount fares may be used for valuation purposes.

When the flight is scheduled specifically for Member or staff person use, or when either the airport of origin or destination does not have regularly-scheduled air service, the value of the use of the aircraft is the full cost of chartering the same or similar aircraft for that flight, divided by the number of Members, Delegates, or the Resident Commissioner, officers, or employees of Congress on the flight.
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  • A flight may not be accepted on the basis of personal friendship when the primary purpose of the trip is either to conduct House business or engage in campaign activity. 
     
  • Example.  Your personal friend owns a private plane and asks you to accompany her on vacation.  The travel will occur between two airports that have regularly-scheduled commercial service.  You may accept the flight on the private aircraft to go on vacation with your personal friend, if the Committee approves.  Because the travel will occur between two airports with regularly-scheduled air service, the value of that flight will be the cost of the first-class ticket between those two airports.  If the value of that first-class ticket is more than $250, you must receive written permission from the Committee. 
  • Example.  Your personal friend owns a private plane and asks you to accompany him on vacation.  Although you could get to the general location of the vacation on regularly-scheduled air service, the particular airport where your friend will depart does not have regularly-scheduled air service to the destination airport, even through connecting flights.  You may accept the flight on the private aircraft to go on vacation with your personal friend, if the Committee approves the request.  Unlike the example above, the value of this flight will be the full cost of chartering the same or similar aircraft for the flight.  This is because the two airports do not have regularly-scheduled air service. 

          iii. Acceptance of Travel Provided by Another Member or Employee 

You may accept a flight on a non-commercial aircraft from another Member, officer, or employee of the U.S. House of Representatives or U.S. Senate that is not related to travel for, or on behalf of, a candidate for the House.  Remember, generally superiors may not accept gifts from their employees unless those gifts are for special occasions such as marriage, retirement, birth of a child, birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. 

[85] 5 U.S.C. § 7351; House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(F).
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  • Example.  A Member owns a private plane and would like to invite other Members or staff to fly on that plane in order to attend an official meeting.  Members and staff may accept gifts from other Members, including travel on non-commercial aircraft owned by the other Member for official purposes. 
  • Example.  Instead, the Member would like to invite other Members or staff to fly on his plane for personal purposes.  Members and staff may also accept gifts from other Members for purely personal purposes, including travel on non-commercial aircraft. 
  • Example.  A Member owns a private plane and offers it to a Senator to go on vacation, as long as the Senator pays for the costs associated with the flight.  If the Senator would like to accept the Member’s offer, the Senator should contact the Senate Ethics Committee for further guidance.  Conversely, if you would like to accept travel on a Senator’s private plane, please contact the Committee for further guidance.

          iv. Acceptance of Travel Resulting from Outside Business, Employment, or Other Activities

You may accept travel on a non-commercial aircraft while participating in travel resulting from outside business, employment, or other activities if two conditions are met.

  • The non-commercial aircraft was not provided or enhanced because of your official position, and
  • Such travel is customarily provided to others in similar circumstances.
[86] House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(G).
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          v. Acceptance of Travel Paid for by Federal, State, or Local Governments

You may accept a flight on a non-commercial aircraft that is paid for by a federal, state, or local governmental entity. 

[87] House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(O).
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  • Example.  The governor would like to fly the state’s congressional delegation to the state to view an area impacted by a natural disaster.  The governor would provide transportation on a state-owned plane for the Members.  Members and staff may accept travel on a non-commercial aircraft owned by a federal, state, or local government. 

          vi. Acceptance of Travel Paid for by a Foreign Government 

You may accept a flight on a non-commercial aircraft that is paid for by a foreign government if the flight complies with the requirements of either the Foreign Gifts of Decorations Act (FGDA) or the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (MECEA).  The requirements of those statutes, including that travel paid for under the FGDA must take place totally outside the United States and be related to an official purpose, must be met for you to accept the travel.

For more information, see Travel Paid for by a Foreign Government.

          vii. Privately-Sponsored Travel

Members, officers, and employees participating in privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel may not accept travel on a non-commercial, private, or chartered flight unless the trip sponsor demonstrates exceptional circumstances in writing.  See Acceptable Travel Expenses.

          viii. Acceptance of Travel under Committee’s Waiver Authority 

In special circumstances, you may ask the Committee to exercise its waiver authority to allow travel on private aircraft.  You must seek and receive permission before traveling on the private aircraft. 

[88] House Rule 23, cl. 15(c).
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[89] House Rule 23, cl. 15(c).
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  • Example.  A natural disaster ravaged a Member’s district.  Due to the extent of the damage, commercial and chartered flights are not available.  The Member is invited to travel on a private aircraft, for free, to survey the damaged areas of his district.  After consultation with the Committee, it does not appear that any exception to the House gift rule would apply.  However, the Member may write in to the Committee and request a waiver.  Both House Rule 23, clause 15(c) and House Rule 25, clause 5(a)(3)(T) allow the Committee to grant a waiver to these rules in unusual circumstances.

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C. Honest Leadership and Open Government Act Prohibitions

Acceptance of Travel for Campaign Activity 

House candidates, and those traveling on behalf of a House candidate, generally may not fly on private aircraft, whether reimbursed or not.  If you are not acting in your capacity as a candidate for the House, or in support of a House candidate, you may accept travel on a non-commercial aircraft if offered by a political organization in connection with a fundraiser or campaign event sponsored by that political organization.  The question of travel on non-commercial aircraft for a campaign purpose is very fact-specific, and you should consult with the Committee and the FEC before accepting travel.

[90]  See 52 U.S.C. §30114(c); 11 C.F.R. § 100.93.
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[91]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(G)(iii).  Although allowed by the gift rule, HLOGA prohibits Members, officers, and employees from accepting travel on a non-commercial aircraft paid for by a House candidate’s principal campaign committee or leadership PAC.  See 11 C.F.R. § 100.93.
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  • Example.  A Member is traveling to a fundraiser for her re-election campaign.  One of her supporters offers her travel on the supporter’s private plane to that fundraiser.  The Member may not accept travel on that private plane.  Generally, candidates for the House may not accept travel on private aircraft for campaign purposes.  Please contact the FEC congressional liaisons for additional information concerning travel on private aircraft for campaign-related purposes.

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XIV. Miscellaneous Considerations

     A. Use of Government Rate

As a general matter, you may only book plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, etc., at the “government rate” if you are traveling in your official capacity and your travel is being paid for with House funds.

You may not use the government rate if you are paying for your travel with personal or campaign funds.  Additionally, if you are participating in a privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip, the trip sponsor may not book travel using the government rate. 

Only Members, officers, and employees may use the government rate for travel.  For example, Members’ spouses and children may not use the government rate.

Members may make multiple reservations for official travel, using the government rate, if the airline allows.

[92]  See Comm. on Official Standards of Conduct, Multiple Reservations on Commercial Flights (Feb. 21, 2008).
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You may, however, accept a discount that is offered to all government employees, or all federal employees, as a widely-available benefit.

[93]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(R).
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     B. Frequent Flier Miles Earned Through Official Travel

Please contact the Committee on House Administration for questions about using frequent flier miles earned through official travel. 

 


ENDNOTES

 

[1]  House rule 25, cl. 5; 5 U.S.C. § 7353

[2]  5 U.S.C. § 7353.

[3]  Id.; 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a); Comm. on House Admin., Members’ Congressional Handbook (official resources may only be used for official purposes).

[4]  All guidance related to Privately-Sponsored, Officially-Connected Travel can be found in the Ethics Committee’s Travel Regulations.  Following an intensive review, the Committee revised its Travel Regulations on December 27, 2012.  The Committee subsequently revised the Travel Regulations on December 9, 2020.  The 2020 Travel Regulations will be effective for all trips starting on or after April 1, 2021.  The current version is available here.

[5]  The Committee highly recommends that anyone wishing to sponsor privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel read the Committee’s Travel Regulations.

[6]  For requests to use the MRA or committee funds, please call the Committee on House Administration.  To use principal campaign committee funds, please call the FEC’s congressional liaisons.

[7]  “[T]ravel [must be] in connection with the duties of [the] individual as an officeholder and would not create the appearance that the [Member, officer or employee] is using public office for private gain.”  House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(3)(G).

[8]  “[E]vents, the activities of which are substantially recreational in nature, are not considered to be in connection with the duties of [the individual] as an officeholder.”  See House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(B). 

[9]  House Rule 24, cls. 1-3 prohibit outside supplementation, both monetary and in-kind, for official House business.  For guidance on proper funding sources for official travel, please see Official Travel

[10]  A Member may authorize an employee to sign for the Member, but in no instance should that employee authorize the employee’s own travel.

[11]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(C).

[12]  Id.

[13]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(A).

[14]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(4)(A).

[15]  Time limits for privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel were imposed out of concern for “the public perception that such trips often may amount to paid vacations for the Member and his family at the expense of special interest groups.”  House Bipartisan Task Force on Ethics, 101st Cong. Report on H.R. 3660, 101st Cong., 1st Sess. (Comm Print 1989), reprinted in 135 Cong. Rec. 30740, 30742 (daily ed. Nov. 21, 1989).

[16]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(A).  The gift rule provides that the term “registered lobbyist” means “a lobbyist registered under the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act or any successor statute,” and the term “agent of a foreign principal” means “an agent registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”  House Rule 25, cl. 5(g). 

Because you may not accept travel from an individual who is a registered lobbyist, you likewise may not accept travel from a lobbying firm.  As a general matter, the Committee does not consider a corporation, trade association, labor union, or other entity that retains or employs lobbyists to represent only the interests of the organization or its members to be a “lobbyist” for purposes of the prohibition.

An organization with registered federal lobbyists or foreign agents who only sit on its board or volunteer for the organization, but are registered to represent other organizations, is not considered an organization that employs or retains a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent.  2020 Travel Regulations § 204.  The restrictions discussed in this section apply to organizations with registered federal lobbyists or foreign agents registered to represent those organizations.

[17]  See 26 U.S.C. § 4941.

[18]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(1)(C)(i).  These colleges and universities must meet the definition of “institutions of higher education” under the Higher Education Act of 1965.  For-profit colleges and universities do not meet this definition.  See 20 U.S.C. § 1001.

[19]  Lobbyists themselves still may not be involved in more than de minimis activities, but the one day rule would not apply.

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[20]  A trip segment is transportation to or from the city of departure, or return, and the trip destination.  Local transportation to attend events or visit locations at the trip destination itself is not included in the definition of a trip segment.

[21]  In previous versions of the Committee’s guidance and travel regulations, the Committee only allowed sponsors who played “a significant role in organizing and conducting a trip, and that also have a clear and defined organizational interest in the purpose of the trip or location being visited.”  Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, Travel Guidelines and Regulations, at 3-4 (Feb. 20, 2007), reprinted in 2008 House Ethics Manual at 399-400; see Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, Investigation of Financial Transactions participating in and Gifts of Transportation Accepted by Representative Fernand J. St. Germain, H.R. Rep. 100-46, at 5-6 (1987). 

On December 27, 2012, the Committee issued new travel regulations that allowed additional sponsors to provide monetary assistance, as long as the sponsors 1) are recognized under IRC § 501(c)(3) and audit or review their grants to the primary trip sponsors to ensure compliance with the grant terms, and 2) are publicly disclosed.  Comm. on Ethics, Travel Guidelines and Regulations § 104(i) (Dec. 27, 2012) [hereinafter 2012 Travel Regulations].  The current Travel Regulations continue this practice.

[22]  See House Rule 24, cls. 1-3.  Because official allowances are available to cover travel expenses for Members and staff within Washington, D.C., and between Washington, D.C. and the district offices, House travelers may not accept private subsidy for that official travel.  However, you may accept local transportation expenses under other exceptions to the House Gift Rule (e.g., local transportation for a widely-attended event). 

[23]  House travelers may not accept per diem payments.  If an outlay is given, any unused portion must be returned.  This requirement is similar to the rules under which Members and staff travel on CODELs or STAFFDELs.  See House Rule 10, cl. 8(c)(2); see also Letter from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services (May 13, 2010) in Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Allegations Relating to the Use of Per Diems on Official Trips Staff Report, app. A, ex. 1 (Dec. 30, 2010) (Staff Report). 

[24]  First class travel, or travel on chartered aircraft, is permitted for exceptional circumstances, such as 1) the cost of the business or first class ticket is not more expensive than the economy class ticket, 2) the upgraded travel is necessary to accommodate a disability or special need, 3) genuine security circumstances require the travel, 4) scheduled travel time including layovers exceeds 14 hours, 5) a domestic flight departs before midnight and lands after 5am the following day, or 6) exceptional circumstances exist.  Exceptional circumstances do not include the unavailability of business or economy class seats or that first class or charter travel is more convenient for the House traveler’s schedule.

[25]  House Rule 24 prohibits staff from supplementing officially-connected activity.  If, however, you choose to drive yourself for your own convenience, rather than accept the trip sponsor’s transportation offer, you are personally responsible for those expenses. 

[26]  Leadership PAC funds may not be used to pay for travel upgrades for privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.

[27]  Per diem rates are set by the Department of State for international travel and the General Services Administration for domestic travel.

[28]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(b)(4)(D).  The provision allowing relatives to accompany you rule was added on January 4, 2005.  See H. Res. 5, 109th Cong. (2005).  Previously the gift rule permitted a Member, officer, or employee to be accompanied by a “spouse or child” but not by any other relative. 

[29]  The Committee previously allowed spouse only privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel through its waiver authority in the House Gift Rule.  See 2008 House Ethics Manual at 102.  However, now all privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel is covered by the current Travel Regulations, and the Committee will not approve spouse-only travel that is offered because of the Member, officer, or employee.

[30]  If the cost of the transportation for the accompanying relative to depart from or return to a different destination is more than what the trip sponsor is paying for other accompanying relatives, the traveler or the accompanying relative must pay the difference personally.

[31]  When traveling at your personal expense, you will not be able to use any rates that the trip sponsor may have negotiated for the rest of the privately-sponsored, officially-connected trip, because those discounts would be a gift to you that do not meet a gift exception.

[32]  See House Rule 1, cl. 10 (Speaker authorized travel); House Rule 10, cl 8 (funding of foreign travel); House Rule 24, cl. 10 (prohibiting travel by Member not re-elected after general election or sine die adjournment; 22 U.S.C. § 1754(b) (funding for foreign travel).

[33]  Travel paid for with official funds is not subject to the Committee’s Travel Regulations and does not need to be reported within 15 days of return.  Additionally, travel paid for with official funds does not need to be reported on annual financial disclosure statements.

[34]  House Rule 24, cls. 1-3 prohibit outside supplementation, both monetary and in-kind, for official House business.  However, local transportation expenses that Members, officers, and employees may accept under the House Gift Rule are permitted (e.g., local transportation for a widely-attended event).  See generally House Rule 25, cl. 5. 

[35]  House Rule 24, cl. 1(b)(1) allows Members to use principal campaign committee funds to defray official expenses.  Members, however, may not use principal campaign committee funds to defray certain enumerated official expenses.  Those specific exclusions are 1) mail or other communications, 2) compensation for services, 3) office space, 4) office furniture, 5) office equipment, or 6) any associated information technology services, excluding handheld communications devices.  House Rule 24, cl. 1(b)(2).

Additionally, because the Committee has overlapping jurisdiction with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over the use of principal campaign committee funds for official expenses, anyone wishing to use principal campaign committee funds for official expenses allowed under House Rule 24 should also confer with the FEC’s congressional liaisons at 202-694-1006 to ensure that it meets the FEC’s relevant tests.  The Committee understands that travel for an official purpose generally meets the FEC’s test, but travel questions are fact-specific and changes in facts could change the guidance you receive. 

[36]  House Rule 24, cl. 1 prohibits the use of staff’s personal funds for official activities.  Members, however, are personally responsible for expenses that exceed the MRA.  See Comm. on House Admin., Members’ Congressional Handbook.  Therefore, Members’ use of their personal funds for official activities is not considered private subsidy of official business.

[37]  House Rule 15, cl. 5(a)(3)(G)(iii).

[38]  § 527 organizations are organized and operated primarily for the purpose of accepting contributions or making expenditures for the purpose of influencing the election of any individual to a public or political office.  See 25 U.S.C. § 527.

[39]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(C).  “Relative” means your father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, great aunt, great uncle, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother, half-sister, the grandfather or grandmother of your spouse, or your fiancé(e).  5 U.S.C. app. § 109(16).  This list is a much more exhaustive than the list of relatives that may accompany you on privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.  For that list, please see the Committee’s Travel Regulations.

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[40]  Specifically you should consider 1) the nature of your relationship, including any previous exchanges of gifts; 2) whether your friend will use personal funds to pay for the trip; and 3) whether your friend made the same offer to any other Member, officer, or employee.  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(D).  Gifts offered because of your official position, or where your friend will be seeking a tax deduction or business reimbursement, are not gifts offered based on personal friendship.  Id.

[41]  Gifts of personal hospitality include lodging and meals “extended for a nonbusiness purpose by an individual, not a corporation or organization, at the personal residence of that individual or his family or on property or facilities owned by that individual or his family,” where the individual is not a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent.  5 U.S.C. app. § 109(14); House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(P). 

[42]  The Committee looks to who resides in the home.  For example, if someone is renting an apartment or house, the renter may not be a lobbyist or foreign agent, regardless of who may own that building.  If, however, the home is owner-occupied, then the owner of the home may not be a lobbyist or foreign agent.

[43]  If you cannot say for certain that your House employment was not a factor in the decision-making process, then the gift exception for travel related to outside activities would not apply.  See, e.g., House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(G)(i) (allowing food, refreshments, lodging, transportation, and other benefits for outside business or employment activities if not offered or enhanced because of the Member, officer, or employee’s official position).  The Committee may be able to give you a waiver of the gift rule to accept the opportunity.  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(T).

[44]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(4)(C)(i)-(iii). 

[45]  The prohibition on the 501(c)(3) organization using funds earmarked for congressional participants includes fund that are formally and informally earmarked for the payment of expenses related to congressional participants.  Consistent with this interpretation, for example, a Member, officer, or employee traveling to a charity event under these rules may not accept a flight on a corporate aircraft that is flying corporate officials to the event, even if the charity reimburses the corporation for the flight.  Aside from concerns on whether a corporation may lawfully accept such a reimbursement under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, a donor to a charity event should have no role in providing travel to a participating Member, officer, or employee.

[46]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(4)(C).  As discussed in the Gifts section of the Committee’s guidance, you may accept an offer of free attendance at a charity fundraiser, as long as you are invited by the event organizer directly and the event is to benefit an organization qualified under § 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Free attendance includes waiver of the ticket price; the food, refreshments, and entertainment at the event; local transportation; and a second ticket for a spouse or dependent child.  Therefore, it is possible to accept free attendance at an event but not be able to accept an offer of long-distance transportation and lodging for that same event.

[47]  House Rule 15, cl. 5(a)(3)(K).  Although the rule allows you to accept bona fide non-monetary public service awards, the rule only allows you to accept travel expenses related to honorary degrees.

[48]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(G). 

[49]  Id. at (i).

[50]  As discussed in the Outside Activity section of the Committee’s guidance, the Committee must review and approve publishing contracts for Members and senior staff.  Staff who are not paid at the senior staff rate do not need Committee approval of a publishing contract, but may still accept travel expenses to promote the book, as long as those travel expenses are not offered or enhanced because of the staff’s House position and are the same expenses offered to other similarly situated authors.  Members and senior staff who may have written books prior to joining the House may also accept travel expenses to promote their books, if the offer conforms with all of the same requirements.  Travel expenses, whether reimbursed or paid upfront, are not the same as honoraria.  Members and senior staff still may not accept honorarium, regardless of the source or purpose.  House Rule 25, cl. 1(a)(2).  Staff who are not senior staff are also restricted in their ability to accept honoraria.  Id. 

[51]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(G)(ii).

[52]  Even if you accept the prospective employer’s offer of employment, you would still need to report those travel expenses on your annual or termination financial disclosure statement, if the travel expenses were accepted while you were still on House payroll and exceed the reporting threshold.

[53]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(G)(iii).

[54]  To determine value when accompanying spouses, you should look to the extra expenses the outside organization paid on your behalf.  For example, if your spouse’s company would have paid for a hotel room whether you went on the trip or not, the hotel room is not a gift to you.  However, your airfare, your meals, and any additional expenses related to the lodging would need to be added to determine whether the value exceeds the reporting threshold.  You may include a comment on your financial disclosure statement that you accompanied your spouse.

[55]  Although not enumerated in the House Gift Rule, the Committee exercised its waiver authority to allow for local transportation outside of the District of Columbia and meals incident to a business site visit.

[56]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(O).  This rule also allows Members, officers, and employees to accept gifts, including travel, that are “secured by the Government under a Government contract.”  “Government contracts” under this provision mean federal government contracts.  See, e.g., 5 C.F.R. § 2635.203(7); 57 Fed. Reg. 35,014 (Aug. 7, 1992) (“The exclusion is intended to cover items the Government procures for use by its employees under a Government contract or knowingly obligates itself to pay for.”).

[57]  See Comm. on Rules, Amending the Rules of the House of Representative to Provide for Gift Reform, H.R. Rep. No. 104-337, at 11 (1995).

[58]  See Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 6500-6599.3.

[59]  See 22 Pa. Code § 31.2 (Pennsylvania state-related universities are instrumentalities of the commonwealth).

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[60]  The Committee considered this matter carefully and found nothing in the legislative history of the current gift rule or its predecessors indicating an intent to treat Native American tribes as state or local government entities for these purposes.  The Committee also does not consider Native American tribes to be foreign governments.

[61]  “Amtrak is not a department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States Government. . .” 49 U.S.C. § 24301(a)(3). 

[62]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(4)(D).  The requirements for a widely-attended event and a charity fundraiser are discussed further in the gifts section.

[63]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(R).

[64]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(1)(B)(i).  Gifts under the “less than $50” exception have an annual limit of less than $100.  The limit is per donor, per recipient.  Id.  Gifts that are allowed under different exceptions to the House Gift Rule are not rolled into the less than $100 limit.

[65]  U.S. Const. Art. I, § 9, cl. 8.

[66]  Congress consented to other programs outside of FGDA and MECEA, including the U.S.-Korea National Assembly Exchange Program.  However, FGDA and MECEA are the most common methods that foreign governments use to offer Members, officers, and staff travel. 

[67]  Members, officers, and employees may accept “[a]n item, the receipt of which is authorized by [FGDA], [MECEA], or any other statute.”  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(N).

[68]  See Comm. on Ethics, In the Matters of Allegations Relating to Travel to Taiwan by Representatives William Owens and Peter Roskam in 2011, H.R. Rep. 113-226 (2013).

[69]  To determine whether an organization is part of a foreign government, the Committee looks to a number of factors including the level to which the organization is funded by a foreign government, whether the organization is controlled by a foreign government, and whether another U.S. government agency determined the organization is part of a foreign government.  Organizations that meet the definition of foreign government may not offer privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.  Members, officers, and employees may only accept travel expenses from organizations that meet this definition under FGDA or MECEA.  See Comm. on Ethics, In the Matter of Officially-Connected Travel by House Members to Azerbaijan in 2013, H.R. Rep. 114-239 (2015); Comm. on Ethics, In the Matters of Allegations Relating to Travel to Taiwan by Representatives William Owens and Peter Roskam in 2011, H.R. Rep. 113-226 (2013).

[70]  5 U.S.C. § 7342(g)(1).  The Committee is the House’s “employing agency” for the purposes of FGDA.  Id. at (a)(6)(A).

[71]  To determine whether an organization is part of a foreign government, the Committee looks to a number of factors including the level to which the organization is funded by a foreign government, whether the organization is controlled by a foreign government, and whether another U.S. government agency determined the organization is part of a foreign government.  Organizations that meet the definition of foreign government may not offer privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel.  Members, officers, and employees may only accept travel expenses from organizations that meet this definition under FGDA or MECEA.  See Comm. on Ethics, In the Matter of Officially-Connected Travel by House Members to Azerbaijan in 2013, H.R. Rep. 114-239 (2015); Comm. on Ethics, In the Matters of Allegations Relating to Travel to Taiwan by Representatives William Owens and Peter Roskam in 2011, H.R. Rep. 113-226 (2013) 

[72]  If a foreign government is directly paying for the travel, the foreign government is the donor and the travel must comply with FGDA or MECEA.  If a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent is using funds from its own account to pay for travel expenses or reimbursement, you may not accept those expenses or reimbursement.

[73]  5 U.S.C. § 7342(a)(1)(G).

[74]  5 U.S.C. § 7342(f)(1).

[75]  22 U.S.C. § 2458a. 

[76]  Id. at (a)(1)(C).

[77]  House Rule 23, cl. 15(a).

[78]  52 U.S.C. § 30114(c).

[79]  House Rule 23, cl. 15(b).

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[80]  “Family member” for purposes of this rule is defined as the Member’s spouse, parents, children, siblings, and parents-in-law.  House Rule 23, cl. 15(d)(2).

[81]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(1)(A)(i).  Impermissible travel on non-commercial aircraft has been the subject of Committee investigations over the years.  See Comm. on Ethics, In the Matter of Allegations Relating to Representative Don Young, H.R. Rep. 113-487, (2014) (improper personal use of campaign funds for and improper gifts of travel on private aircraft for personal travel); Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, Investigation of Travel on Corporate Aircraft Taken by Representative Dan Daniel, H.R. Rep. 99-470 (1986) (improper acceptance of travel on corporate aircraft for official travel).  The Committee issued guidance concerning travel on non-commercial aircraft that is incorporated in this manual.  Comm. on Ethics, Non-Commercial Aircraft Travel (Apr. 10, 2019).

[82]  House Rule 25, clause 5(a)(3)(C). 

[83]  Candidates for the House, traveling as candidates, may only accept travel on non-commercial aircraft if that aircraft is owned by the candidate or the candidate’s immediate family, including a spouse, parents, children, siblings, and parents-in-law.  52 U.S.C. § 30114(c)(3)(B).

[84]  The value of a flight on a non-commercial aircraft is to be determined as follows.  When the travel is via a previously or regularly-scheduled flight by the owner or operator of the aircraft, and the airports between which the Member or staff person is flying have regularly-scheduled air service (regardless of whether such service is direct), the value of the use of the aircraft is the cost of a first-class ticket from the airport of departure to the airport of destination.  If only the coach rates are provided between those points, the value is the coach rate.  If more than one first-class rate is available, the lowest fare may be used.  However, no discount fares may be used for valuation purposes.

When the flight is scheduled specifically for Member or staff person use, or when either the airport of origin or destination does not have regularly-scheduled air service, the value of the use of the aircraft is the full cost of chartering the same or similar aircraft for that flight, divided by the number of Members, Delegates, or the Resident Commissioner, officers, or employees of Congress on the flight.

[85]  5 U.S.C. § 7351; House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(F).

[86]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(G).

[87]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(O).

[88]  House Rule 23, cl. 15(c).

[89]  Id.

[90]  See 52 U.S.C. §30114(c); 11 C.F.R. § 100.93.

[91]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(G)(iii).  Although allowed by the gift rule, HLOGA prohibits Members, officers, and employees from accepting travel on a non-commercial aircraft paid for by a House candidate’s principal campaign committee or leadership PAC.  See 11 C.F.R. § 100.93.

[92]  See Comm. on Official Standards of Conduct, Multiple Reservations on Commercial Flights (Feb. 21, 2008).

[93]  House Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(3)(R).

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