Know Before You Go: An Ethics Overview for Capitol Hill Holiday Parties
Holiday parties on K Street and Capitol Hill are more complicated than they may seem. Congressional ethics regulations banning lobbyists from treating lawmakers and staffers to most meals or other gifts are also in place for December parties in Washington.
Most K Street party planners stick to the "reception exception" rule, meaning that members and staff can attend a reception that is purely a social and holiday celebration. The most recent guidance from the House Ethics panel reminds party attendees that the reception exception “does not include full meals or luxury items, such as caviar.
Partner Chris DeLacy said the reception exception is the simplest approach and his favorite. He advises that when in doubt, staffers, lawmakers and K Street party planners should call on House Ethics or Senate Ethics panels for advice on whether or not an event is in line with the rules.
“They will take your call and answer your questions,” Mr. DeLacy said. “They won’t approve the event, but they will tell you if it sounds problematic.”