Caterers, like lobbyists, are well-briefed on the rules. An official with Occasions Caterers noted that picks and skewers are acceptable eating implements, while forks, knives and spoons are not. Some hors d’oeuvres popular with revelers include golden beets with mascarpone and snow peas stuffed with ricotta.
It’s worth noting that alcoholic beverages, even top shelf, may flow freely.
Ethics experts recommend that lobbying groups hosting receptions, as well as invited members and staff, touch base with the ethics committees if there are any concerns.
That’s what the video game lobby did in preparing for its annual holiday party, said Dan Hewitt, the group’s vice president of media relations. The Entertainment Software Association is holding its reception at the Rock N Roll Hotel on Thursday. Don’t expect to go home with any games, but you can play them at the party, Hewitt said. As for the food, it will be “bite-sized and mini,” he assured.
While Minor said it isn’t necessary to note compliance on an invitation, Hill guests should read each one carefully. If it says reception, then it’s likely no problem. He similarly advises clients to keep their invite wording simple.
Once at the shindig, government officials should be wary of gift bags, as some items could violate the rules. And look out for full-sized hot dogs or carving stations, which could equal a meal. Mini hotdogs and passed appetizers with roast beef are OK.
One perk of the job, Minor said, is on-the-ground fact-finding.
“I do notice clients watching me check out the food to make sure I haven’t rolled my eyes,” he said. “Ideally, I’m there to enjoy the company of the people and not to worry about whether the food is sufficiently sized.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.