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Interpretative Opinion 00-06: Acceptance of Gifts

October 2, 2000
 

Mr. Adrian Fenty
Committee To Elect Adrian Fenty
Ward 4 Council Member
7348 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20012

Dear Mr. Fenty:

This responds to your request by letter dated September 27, 2000, for an interpretative opinion. You query as to whether you may accept, as the Democratic Nominee to the Council of the District of Columbia from Ward 4, two (2) tickets to a Washington Redskins football game, transportation to and from the game, and food and beverages while in attendance, from Washington Gas.

The District of Columbia Campaign Finance Reform and Conflict of Interest Act (the Campaign Finance Act), 88 Stat. 447, Pub. L. 93-376 (August 14, 1974), as codified in DC Code, Sections 1-1401 et seq. (1999 Repl. Vol.), governs the disclosure of gifts by public officials, and under certain circumstances prohibits the acceptance of gifts. For your information, Section 1803.2 of the DC Personnel Regulations also addresses the acceptance of gifts by District Government employees, but does not include candidates for office.

First, DC Code Section 1-1462(a)(5) requires the disclosure of all gifts received in an aggregate value of $100 during a calendar year from any business doing business with the District Government. As you are aware, pursuant to DC Code Section 1-1462(a), a candidate for nomination for election, or election, to public office, who at the time of candidacy, does not occupy such office, must file a financial disclosure statement with the Office of Campaign Finance within one month after becoming a candidate for office. Candidates for Member of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission are excluded from this requirement. Further, information disclosed under the Financial Disclosure statute must be modified within thirty (30) days of any changes.

Second, DC Code Section 1-1461( c), prohibits any person from offering or giving, and a public official or a member of a public official’s household from soliciting or receiving “anything of value… based on any understanding that such public official’s official actions or judgment or vote would be influenced thereby, or where it could reasonably be inferred that the thing of value would influence the public official in the discharge of his or her duties, or as a reward, except for political contributions publicly reported pursuant to Section 1-1416 and transactions made in the ordinary course of business of the person offering or giving the thing of value”. The term “public official” as used in this section means any person required to file a financial disclosure statement under DC Code Section 1-1462. Hence, candidates for office must adhere to the prohibitions set forth in the Conflict of Interest Statute.

Third, DC Code, Sections 1-1456(a) and (b) prohibit any registered lobbyist or anyone acting on behalf of a lobbyist from offering or giving to an official in the legislative or executive branch, or a member of their staff, and the latter from soliciting or receiving, a gift that exceeds $100 in value in the aggregate in any calendar year. The term “an official in the legislative branch” for purposes of the lobbying statute includes “any candidate for Chairman or member of the Council in a primary, special, or general election…” Washington Gas Company registered as a lobbyist with the Office of Campaign Finance on May 10, 2000.

Based on the foregoing, as a candidate, you must disclose all gifts where it can be reasonably be determined that such gifts are valued at $100 or more, or in the aggregate, when received from any business doing business with the District Government. Further, the receipt of gifts where given by registered lobbyists in the District and exceeding $100 in value, or to influence action, or where it can be inferred that the thing of value would influence the public official in the discharge of his or her duties, is prohibited.