By David Fine
The House Ethics Committee has adopted new regulations for the acceptance of reimbursement for travel expenses incurred by House members and staff from a private source for purposes related to their official duties. The new rules are effective April 1, 2013. According to the Committee, the regulations “supersede any prior inconsistent Committee regulations and guidance regarding privately-funded, officially-connected travel, including the 2008 House Ethics Manual.” Whereas the regulations in the past had been set forth in a lengthy memorandum format as part of the House Ethics Manual, the new regulations are set forth in a regulation-type format, with extensive definitions.
The Committee did not make significant substantive changes. For example, “lobbying firms,” registered federal lobbyists, and registered foreign agents still cannot act as trip sponsors and entities that employ or retain federal lobbyists or foreign agents may not involve any federal lobbyist or foreign agent in planning, organizing, requesting, or arranging a trip. However, the new regulations contain more detail and specificity than prior iterations, including a detailed section on the types of entities that may act as trip sponsors.
Some of the substantive highlights of the new regulations include:
- Pre-travel Sponsor and Traveler forms will need to be submitted 30 days prior to the trip, as opposed to the current 14 days;
- The new forms will require additional information about trip sponsors;
- Sponsors will be required to complete and submit a post-travel form to be filed by the travelers within 10 days after the trip;
- New categories of permissible sponsoring organizations and requirements for such organizations are detailed;
- “Grantmaking Sponsors” (which includes public charities and private foundations) will be required to certify that they conducted an audit or review to ensure that funds used to sponsor travel were spent in accordance with the terms of its grant or donation.