New Federal Employee Gift Rules Targeting Potential Social Interactions Should Be Reconsidered

Kelley Drye Client Advisory

Since the Obama Administration published proposed new restrictions on gifts to federal employees from registered lobbyists and lobbying organizations, common themes have emerged that suggest the approach should be reconsidered. In its focus on Lobbying Disclosure Act (“LDA”) lobbyists, lobbyist registrants and those registrants’ other non-lobbyist employees, the proposed rule may act to stifle beneficial communications between policymakers and subject matter experts simply because the interactions might have a more social component.

For instance, the proposal targets quite commonplace opportunities for interaction between lobbyists and government officials and employees, such as widely attended gatherings. This particular element of the proposal may result in unintended consequences, chilling speech and diminishing the ability of a wide variety of modest concerns to petition their government because they comply with the federal lobbying laws. This advisory seeks not only to identify such areas of concern with the proposal but, also, to emphasize that a more in-depth analysis raises important, though nuanced, questions about the lines the Administration is attempting to draw.

The Office of Government Ethics (“OGE”) has invited comments on the proposed rule. Those wishing to submit comments on the proposal may still do so until November 14, 2011.

Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

Kelley Drye’s Campaign Finance and Political Law group helps its clients succeed in the political arena by guiding them past the legal pitfalls that might lead to investigations, criminal and civil penalties, and public scandal. Through our comprehensive, continuing focus on evolving campaign finance rules and the tactics of enforcement authorities, we shape clients’ advocacy programs, compliance approaches and defensive measures to reduce vulnerabilities and address problems. Many diverse corporations, trade associations and labor organizations turn to us for continuing assistance on government ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance and election law.

For more information please contact:

David E. Frulla
(202) 342-8648

Dustin J. Painter
(202) 342-8875

Elizabeth C. Johnson
(202) 342-8625