H.R. 2835 (103rd): Congressional Ethics Reform Act of 1993

103rd Congress, 1993–1994. Text as of Aug 03, 1993 (Introduced).

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HR 2835 IH

103d CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 2835

To limit the acceptance of gifts, meals, and travel by Members of Congress and congressional staff, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

August 3, 1993

Ms. SHEPHERD (for herself, Mr. FINGERHUT, Mr. MANN, Ms. SCHENK, Ms. CANTWELL, Mrs. MALONEY, Mr. BARRETT of Wisconsin, Mr. KLEIN, Mr. BECERRA, Mr. SANDERS, and Mrs. CLAYTON) introduced the following bill; which was referred jointly to the Committees on House Administration, the Judiciary, and Standards of Official Conduct


A BILL

To limit the acceptance of gifts, meals, and travel by Members of Congress and congressional staff, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ‘Congressional Ethics Reform Act of 1993’.

SEC. 2. GENERAL STANDARDS.

    (a) GENERAL PROHIBITIONS- Except as otherwise provided in this Act, a Member or employee shall not, directly or indirectly, solicit or accept a gift from any source.

    (b) RELATIONSHIP TO ILLEGAL GRATUITIES STATUTE- Unless accepted in violation of subsection (c)(1), a gift accepted under the standards set forth in this Act shall not constitute an illegal gratuity otherwise prohibited by section 201(c)(1)(B) of title 18, United States Code.

    (c) LIMITATIONS ON USE OF EXCEPTIONS- A Member or employee shall not--

      (1) accept a gift in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act;

      (2) solicit or coerce the offering of a gift;

      (3) accept gifts from the same or different sources on a basis so frequent that a reasonable person would be led to believe the Member or employee is using his public office for private gain;

      (4) accept a gift in violation of any statute; or

      (5) accept vendor promotional training contrary to any applicable regulations, policies, or guidance relating to the procurement of supplies and services for the Congress.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

    For purposes of this Act--

      (1) EMPLOYEE- The term ‘employee’ means an employee of the legislative branch.

      (2) GIFT- The term ‘gift’ includes any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value. It includes services as well as gifts of training, transportation, local travel, lodgings and meals, whether provided in-kind, by purchase of a ticket, payment in advance, or reimbursement after the expense has been incurred. It does not include--

        (A) modest items of food and refreshments, such as soft drinks, coffee, and donuts, offered other than as part of a meal;

        (B) greeting cards and items with little intrinsic value, such as plaques, certificates and trophies, which are intended solely for presentation;

        (C) loans from banks and other financial institutions on terms generally available to the public;

        (D) opportunities and benefits, including favorable rates and commercial discounts, available to the public or to a class consisting of all Government employees, whether or not restricted on the basis of geographic considerations;

        (E) rewards and prizes given to competitors in contests or events, including random drawings, open to the public unless the Member’s or employee’s entry into the contest or event is required as part of his official duties;

        (F) pension and other benefits resulting from continued participation in a Member or employee welfare and benefits plan maintained by a former employer;

        (G) anything which is paid for by the Government or secured by the Government under Government contract;

        (H) any gift accepted by the Congress under specific statutory authority;

        (I) anything for which the market value is paid by the Member or employee; and

        (J) any books, written materials, audio tapes, videotapes, or other informational materials.

      (3) MARKET VALUE- The term ‘market value’ means the retail cost the Member or employee would incur to purchase the gift. A Member or employee who cannot ascertain the market value of a gift may estimate the market value by reference to the retail cost of similar items of like quality. The market value of a gift of a ticket entitling the holder to food, refreshments, entertainment, or any other benefit shall be the face value of the ticket.

      (4) MEMBER- The term ‘Member’ has the meaning given such term in section 109(12) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App. 6, sec. 109).

      (5) SOLICITATION OR ACCEPTANCE- (A) A gift is solicited or accepted because of the Member’s or employee’s official position if it is from a person other than a Member or employee and if a reasonable person with knowledge of all relevant facts would conclude that it would not have been solicited, offered, or given had the Member or employee not held his position as a Member or employee.

      (B) A gift which is solicited or accepted indirectly includes a gift--

        (i) given with the Member’s or employee’s knowledge and acquiescence to his or her parent, sibling, spouse, child, or dependent relative if a reasonable person with knowledge of all relevant facts would conclude that the gift was given because of that person’s relationship to the Member or employee; or

        (ii) given to any other person, including any charitable organization, on the basis of designation, recommendation, or other specification by the Member or employee, except as permitted for the disposition of perishable items by section 5(a)(2).

      (6) ETHICS COMMITTEE- The term Ethics Committee with respect to the House means the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and with respect to the Senate means the Select Committee on Ethics.

      (7) VENDOR PROMOTIONAL TRAINING- The term ‘vendor promotional training’ means training provided by any person for the purpose of promoting its products or services. It does not include training provided under a congressional contract or by a contractor to facilitate use of products or services it furnishes under a congressional contract.

      (8) PERSONAL HOSPITALITY OF AN INDIVIDUAL- The term ‘personal hospitality of an individual’ means personal hospitality for a non-business purpose by an individual who is not a corporation or organization on property or facilities owned by that individual or the individual’s family and covers only food and lodging. Such term does not apply if any of the costs associated with the personal hospitality could be deducted as a business expense or the individual providing the personal hospitality is not present.

SEC. 4. EXCEPTIONS.

    The prohibitions set forth in section 2 do not apply to a gift accepted under the circumstances described in paragraphs (1) through (10) of this section and a gift accepted in accordance with one of those paragraphs will not be deemed to violate section 2 of this Act.

      (1) GIFTS OF $20 OR LESS- A Member or employee may accept unsolicited gifts having an aggregate market value of $20 or less per occasion, provided that the aggregate market value of individual gifts received from any one person or entity under the authority of this paragraph shall not exceed $50 in a calendar year. This exception does not apply to gifts of cash or of investment interests such as stock, bonds, or certificates of deposit. Where the market value of a gift or the aggregate market value of gifts offered on any single occasion exceeds $20, the Member or employee may not pay the excess value over $20 in order to accept that portion of the gift or those gifts worth $20. Where the aggregate value of tangible items offered on a single occasion exceeds $20, the Member or employee may decline any distinct and separate item in order to accept those items aggregating $20 or less.

      (2) GIFTS BASED ON A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP- A Member or employee may accept a gift given under circumstances which make it clear that the gift is motivated by a family relationship or personal friendship rather than the position of the Member or employee. Relevant factors in making such a determination include the history of the relationship and whether the family member or friend personally pays for the gift.

      (3) DISCOUNTS AND SIMILAR BENEFITS- In addition to those opportunities and benefits excluded from the definition of a gift by section 3(2)(D), a Member or employee may accept--

        (A) reduced membership or other fees for participation in organization activities offered to all Government employees by professional organizations if the only restrictions on membership relate to professional qualifications; and

        (B) opportunities and benefits--

          (i) offered to members of a group or class in which membership is unrelated to congressional employment; or

          (ii) offered to members of an organization, such as an employees’ association or congressional credit union, in which membership is related to congressional employment if the same offer is broadly available to large segments of the public through organizations of similar size.

      A Member or employee may not accept for personal use any benefit to which the Government is entitled as a result of an expenditure of Government funds.

      (4) HONORARY DEGREES- (A) A Member or employee may accept an honorary degree from an institution of higher education (as defined in section 1141(a) of title 20, United States Code) based on a written determination by the Ethics Committee that the timing of the award of the degree would not cause a reasonable person to question the Member’s or employee’s impartiality in a matter affecting the institution.

      (B) A Member or employee who may accept an honorary degree pursuant to subparagraph (A) may also accept meals and entertainment given to him and to members of his family at the event at which the presentation takes place.

      (5) GIFTS BASED ON OUTSIDE BUSINESS OR EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIPS- A Member or employee may accept meals, lodgings, transportation and other benefits--

        (A) resulting from the business or employment activities of a Member’s or employee’s spouse when it is clear that such benefits have not been offered or enhanced because of the Member’s or employee’s official position; or

        (B) resulting from his or her outside business or employment activities when it is clear that such benefits have not been offered or enhanced because of his or her official status.

      (6) POLITICAL EVENTS- A Member or employee may accept meals, lodgings, transportation and other benefits, including free attendance at events, when provided in connection with active participation in political management or political campaigns by a political organization described in section 527(e) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

      (7) WIDELY ATTENDED GATHERINGS AND OTHER EVENTS-

        (A) SPEAKING AND SIMILAR ENGAGEMENTS- When a Member or employee participates as a speaker or panel participant or otherwise presents information related directly or indirectly to the Congress or matters before the Congress at a conference or other event, his or her acceptance of an offer of free attendance at the event on the day of the presentation is permissible when provided by the sponsor of the event. The Member’s or employee’s participation in the event on that day represents a customary and necessary part of the performance of his or her responsibilities and does not involve a gift to him or to the Congress.

        (B) WIDELY ATTENDED GATHERINGS- (i) A Member or employee may accept a sponsor’s unsolicited gift of free attendance at all or appropriate parts of a widely attended gathering in the area of the District of Columbia of mutual interest to a number of parties. A gathering is widely attended if, for example, it is open to members from throughout a given industry or profession or if those in attendance represent a range of persons interested in a given matter.

        (ii) A gathering is not widely attended if it is a congressional retreat to which a majority of Members of either House of Congress or the majority of the Members of a political party in one or both Houses are invited and which is held outside the United States Capitol grounds.

        (C) FREE ATTENDANCE- For purposes of subparagraphs (A) and (B), free attendance may include waiver of all or part of a conference or other fee or the provision of food, refreshments, entertainment, instruction and materials furnished to all attendees as an integral part of the event. It does not include travel expenses, lodgings, entertainment collateral to the event, or meals taken other than in a group setting with all other attendees.

        (D) COST PROVIDED BY SPONSOR OF EVENT- The cost of the Member’s or employee’s attendance will not be considered to be provided by the sponsor where a person other than the sponsor designates the Member or employee to be invited and bears the cost of the Member’s or employee’s attendance through a contribution or other payment intended to facilitate that Member’s or employee’s attendance. Payment of dues or a similar assessment to a sponsoring organization does not constitute a payment intended to facilitate a particular Member’s or employee’s attendance.

        (E) ACCOMPANYING SPOUSE- When others in attendance will generally be accompanied by spouses, a Member or employee may accept a sponsor’s invitation to an accompanying spouse to participate in all or a portion of the event at which the Member’s or employee’s free attendance is permitted under subparagraph (A) or (B).

      (8) ITEMS PRIMARILY FOR FREE DISTRIBUTION TO CONSTITUENTS- A Member or employee may accept food or other items of minimal value intended primarily for free distribution to visiting constituents.

      (9) PERSONAL HOSPITALITY OF AN INDIVIDUAL- No Member or employee may accept more than 30 days of personal hospitality in a calendar year without prior written waiver from the Ethics Committee.

SEC. 5. PROPER DISPOSITION OF PROHIBITED GIFTS.

    (a) IN GENERAL- A Member or employee who has received a gift that cannot be accepted under this Act shall--

      (1) return any tangible item to the donor or pay the donor its market value (a Member or employee who cannot ascertain the actual market value of an item may estimate its market value by reference to the retail cost of similar items of like quality);

      (2) when it is not practical to return a tangible item because it is perishable, the item may be given to an appropriate charity or destroyed;

      (3) for any entertainment, favor, service, benefit or other intangible, reimburse the donor the market value (subsequent reciprocation by the employee does not constitute reimbursement); and

      (4) dispose of gifts from foreign governments or international organizations in accordance with rules established by the Ethics Committee.

    (b) USE OF APPROPRIATED FUNDS TO RETURN GIFTS- A Member or employee may use appropriated funds and franked mail to return gifts.

    (c) PROMPT COMPLIANCE- A Member or employee who, on his own initiative, promptly complies with the requirements of this section will not be deemed to have improperly accepted an unsolicited gift. A Member or employee who promptly consults his Ethics Committee to determine whether acceptance of an unsolicited gift is proper and who, upon the advice of the Ethics Committee, returns the gift or otherwise disposes of the gift in accordance with this section, will be considered to have complied with the requirements of this section on his own initiative.

SEC. 6. CHARITABLE DESIGNATION OF OUTSIDE EARNED INCOME.

    Subsection (c) of section 501 of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 is repealed.

SEC. 7. REPEAL OF OLD RULE.

    Section 901 of the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 (2 U.S.C. 31-2) is repealed.

SEC. 8. ACCEPTANCE OF TRAVEL AND RELATED EXPENSES FROM NON-FEDERAL SOURCES.

    (a) IN GENERAL- The Ethics Committees shall prescribe rules establishing the conditions under which their respective Houses may accept payment, or authorize a Member or employee to accept payment on the House’s behalf, from non-Federal sources for travel, subsistence, and related expenses with respect to attendance of the Member or employee (or the spouse of such Member or employee) at any meeting or similar function relating to the official duties of the Member or employee. Any cash payment so accepted shall be credited to the appropriation applicable to such expenses. In the case of a payment in kind so accepted, a pro rata reduction shall be made in any entitlement of the Member or employee to payment from the Government for such expenses.

    (b) RULES- The rules prescribed pursuant to subsection (a) shall--

      (1) in the case of a Member, require that the Ethics Committee approve in advance all travel for which related expenses are to be reimbursed and that, in advance of such travel, a Member publish in the Congressional Record the dates, itinerary, and purpose of such travel, the identity of the party providing the reimbursement, and the anticipated value of the reimbursement;

      (2) in the case of an employee of the House of Representatives or Senate, require that the authorizing Member approve in advance all travel for which related expenses are to be reimbursed; and that, in advance of such travel, the authorizing Member publish in the Congressional Record the dates, itinerary, and purpose of such travel, the identity of the party providing the reimbursement, and the anticipated value of the reimbursement;

      (3) in the case of a person not covered by paragraph (1) or (2), require that the appropriate supervisor approve in advance all travel for which related expenses are to be reimbursed;

      (4) condition approval under paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) on a determination that acceptance of reimbursement would not cause a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts relevant to a particular case to question the integrity of a Member, the Congress, or congressional operation; and

      (5) prohibit reimbursement for items beyond those reasonably necessary for the Member or employee to participate in the event.

    Entertainment expenses collateral to an event are not to be considered reasonably necessary under paragraph (5).

    (c) GENERAL PROHIBITION- Except as provided in this section or any other statute, no Member, employee, or House of Congress may accept payment in cash or in kind for expenses referred to in subsection (a). A Member or employee who accepts any such payment in violation of the preceding sentence--

      (1) may be required, in addition to any penalty provided by law, to repay, for deposit in the general fund of the Treasury, an amount equal to the amount of the payment so accepted; and

      (2) in the case of a repayment under paragraph (1), shall not be entitled to any payment from the Government for such expenses.

    (d) REPORTS-

      (1) IN GENERAL- A Member shall, in the manner provided in paragraph (2), publish in the Congressional Record reports of payments of more than $20 accepted under this section by the Member or by an employee of the Member.

      (2) CONTENTS- The reports required by paragraph (1) shall, with respect to each payment--

        (A) specify the amount and method of payment, the name of the person making the payment, the name of the Member or employee, the nature of the meeting or similar function, the time and place of travel, the nature of the expenses, and such other information as the Ethics Committee may prescribe;

        (B) be submitted not later than May 31 of each year with respect to payments in the preceding period beginning on October 1 and ending on March 31; and

        (C) be submitted not later than November 30 of each year with respect to payments in the preceding period beginning on April 1 and ending on September 30.

SEC. 9. SOLICITATION OF REGISTERED LOBBYISTS.

    A Member or employee shall not knowingly solicit contributions from any registered lobbyist for an organization described under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. For purposes of this section, the fact that the name of a Member or employee is on the letterhead of a solicitation is not sufficient to establish that the named Member or employee has solicited a contribution.

SEC. 10. PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION OF ACT.

    (a) CIVIL ACTION- The Attorney General may bring a civil action in any appropriate United States district court against any individual who knowingly and willfully accepts or solicits a gift in violation of section 2 or otherwise violates any provision of this Act. The court in which such an action is brought may assess against any such individual a civil penalty in any amount, not to exceed $10,000.

    (b) COMMITTEE REFERRAL- The Ethics Committee shall refer to the Attorney General the name of any individual which such committee has reasonable cause to believe has willfully violated any provision of this Act.

    (c) COMMITTEE ACTION- The Ethics Committee may take any appropriate personnel or other action in accordance with applicable law or regulation against any individual who violates any provision of this Act.