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Ethics Rules Bind Furloughed Staffers | Davidson

As to your second question, yes, the restriction applies to any work for a law firm, even work that does not involve the provision of legal services. Members and senior staffers may not receive “compensation for affiliating with or being employed by a firm, partnership, association, corporation, or other entity that provides professional services involving a fiduciary relationship,” the ethics manual says. Thus, a senior staffer may not receive “compensation for serving as, for example, a business manager or administrative assistant of a law firm.” In short, senior staffers, while employed by the House, may not receive compensation from a law firm for employment by the law firm in any capacity.

In addition, these restrictions apply to all services involving a fiduciary relationship — not just legal services. Although the Ethics Reform Act does not define the term “fiduciary,” the task force report that precipitated the legislation states that the term should not be interpreted narrowly and that it reaches real estate, insurance, and business consulting and advising services.

In addition, the House Ethics Manual states that the restriction extends generally to consulting and advising services in political matters and public relations.

And, again, the restriction would prevent senior staffers from being employed in any capacity for an entity that provides any such services.

Finally, it warrants mention that this is just one narrow area where the ethics rules could complicate efforts to deal with the effect of the sequester on congressional offices. As the recent Ethics Committee memorandum points out, there are many other potential pitfalls as well, including restriction on using furloughed employees for official work, as well as the use of campaign funds to compensate for cuts to official budget accounts. You are smart to be mindful of these pitfalls.

C. Simon Davidson is a partner with the law firm McGuireWoods. Submit questions to Questions do not create an attorney-client relationship. Readers should not treat his column as legal advice.

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