Travel Paid for by a Political Organization
Below is a condensed version of this topic; for complete guidance please refer to the House Ethics Manual, Chapter 3 on travel.
Under the gift rule, a Member, officer, or employee may accept transportation, lodging, and other benefits provided by a political organization in connection with a fundraising or campaign event sponsored by that organization (House Rule 25, clause 5(a)(3)(G)(iii)). The term “political organization” is defined in this provision by reference to § 527(e) of the Internal Revenue Code.33
In addition, a Member may travel at the expense of his or her campaign committee when the primary purpose of the travel is campaign or political in nature. For further information on the proper use of campaign funds, see Chapter 4 on campaign activity. Arrangements for travel to be paid for by a political organization (for example, the booking of flights or hotel reservations) should not be made in a congressional office, and any staff persons traveling on political funds must do so on their own time. In addition, House rules prohibit Members from using campaign funds, among other sources, to pay for a non-commercial flight (see discussion below). Members wishing to accept travel, including any flight on a non-commercial aircraft, as an in-kind campaign contribution should contact the Federal Election Commission for guidance on whether the acceptance of the travel would be permissible under the Federal Election Campaign Act and implementing regulations.
Travel paid for by a political organization is not subject to the requirements for pre-travel Committee approval, and should not be reported on the 15-day Travel Disclosure Forms that are filed with the Clerk, as those forms are for the reporting of officially-connected travel only. Travel paid for by a political organization must be reported on one’s annual Financial Disclosure Statement only if that travel is not required to be reported on an expenditure report filed with the Federal Election Commission. Accordingly, travel paid for by, for example, a congressional campaign committee generally will not have to be reported on one’s Financial Disclosure Statement. However, travel paid for by a state or local political organization will have to be reported on Schedule VII of that form.
33 Briefly stated, under that statute, a political organization is an entity 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.