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Political Conventions

    In the 110th Congress, a new provision was added to House Rule XXV prohibiting Member participation in certain events held during a national political convention. 55  Under this provision, a Member may not “participate56 in an event honoring that Member” if the event takes place during a national political convention, other than to participate in the Member’s capacity as a candidate for President or Vice President, and when certain other criteria are met.  Member participation prohibited under the provision is for an event when the Member is named, including through the use of any personal title, as an honoree (including as a “special guest”) in any invitations, promotional materials, or publicity for the event.  Member participation also would be prohibited if the Member were to receive, through the Member’s participation in the event, some special benefit or opportunity that would not be available to some or all of the other participants, such as if the sponsor were to offer the Member an exclusive speaking role or a very prominent ceremonial role.

    The restriction is intended to have the “effect of preventing lobbyists or an entity employing such lobbyists from directly paying for a party to honor a specific Member.”57  Thus, an event that is organized to honor a delegation or caucus, without naming any specific Member of the delegation or caucus, or providing any special benefit or opportunity to a particular Member, would be an event that Members may participate in under clause 8 of House Rule 25 – provided that attendance at the event otherwise would be in compliance with clause 5 of House Rule XXV (the gift rule).  There is no numerical requirement on the size of the delegation or caucus participating in the event.  Furthermore, a Member would not be prohibited from participating in an event taking place during a national convention if the Member’s name appears, for example, in a listing of the names of the honorary host committee members for the event if that listing includes the names of non-congressional host committee members.

    The provision is very specific in prohibiting Member participation in an event that is “directly paid for” by a lobbyist or private entity that retains or employs lobbyists.  The fact that a private organization received some of its funding for an event taking place during a national convention from a lobbyist or private entity that retains or employs lobbyists, by itself, would not disqualify a Member from participating in the organization’s event.

    The provision also states that Member participation is prohibited only at certain events taking place “[d]uring the dates” on which a national convention is held.  Accordingly, the rule does not prohibit Member participation in an event that takes place on a date other than the dates on which the national convention is held.

    It is important to note that the provision does not establish a new type of event for which free attendance may be accepted under the gift rule.  In other words, a Member may accept an offer of free attendance at an event taking place during a national political convention only in accordance with the gift rule – that is, the event is a reception or it satisfies all of the criteria of a widely attended event, a charity event, or a fundraising or campaign event sponsored by a political organization.