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Davidson Archive

FEC Clarifies Rules for Food and Drink at Fundraisers | A Question of Ethics

Q. As someone who has worked on campaigns for Members of the House for many years, I have a question about campaign fundraisers. I had always thought that when donors attend a fundraiser where food and drink are served, their entire ticket price counts as a contribution from the donor. I heard recently though that when donors pay for the cost of food and drink they enjoy at a fundraiser, campaigns do not have to treat the payments as contribution. That seems rife for abuse. Is it true?

Can Bartering Official Acts Ever Be Legal? | Question of Ethics

Q. I am hoping you can explain the recent ruling on Rod Blagojevichís appeal of his corruption convictions. I know that the court upheld nearly all of his convictions, but I was interested to see that the court threw out several as well. Why did it do this, and is there any significance to the decision?

What Does Bob McDonnell’s Case Mean for Members and Staffers? | Question of Ethics

Q. I am not an attorney, but I have several friends who are, and they seem to think that the latest development in Bob McDonnellís legal case is significant. I know that McDonnell lost the appeal of his conviction on corruption charges. But, can you explain the legal significance of the case to a non-lawyer like me? Should it mean anything to those of us on the Hill?

Are Lobbyists Banned From House and Senate Gyms? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I am a former officer of the House now working as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. I love my job, but sometimes wonder if we lobbyists are unfairly singled out and discriminated against. One example I recently learned about is that former members and officers who become lobbyists are apparently not allowed to use House exercise facilities, while other former members and officers are. Is this really true?

May Judicial Candidates Be Prevented From Seeking Campaign Funds? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I just read that in some states, people running for judicial positions may not seek contributions to their campaigns. This struck me as nonsensical, but the article said that the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the prohibition. Is it really the case that states prohibit judicial candidates from seeking campaign contributions? And, why would the Supreme Court allow these prohibitions?

May a Staffer Ask for a Free Meal? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I do not work on the Hill, but I have several friends who do, and I have a question about when itís okay to buy them a meal. I had lunch the other day with a chief of staff of a member of the House of Representatives. He forgot his wallet and so asked if I could by lunch. I donít know anything about government ethics rules, but he said it was fine because the rules allow staffers to accept meals and gifts worth less than $50 from anyone other than a lobbyist, and our tab was $40 after tip. I went ahead and paid based on this, but I later asked another staffer, and he said it was probably not okay for me to have done so. What gives?

What Are the Charges Against Menendez? | A Question of Ethics

Q. As a resident of New Jersey, I have seen many different perspectives on the recent indictment of Bob Menendez. Some here in New Jersey are supporting him, while others have called for his resignation. What I want to know is what exactly the charges are against Menendez and what the government needs to prove. Iíve generally heard it referred to as a bribery case, but are there any other charges against Menendez?

May Lobbyists Lobby Their Spouses? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I read that Rep. [Edward] Whitfield, R-Ky., is under investigation for allowing his wife to lobby his office on behalf of her employer. Is it illegal for someone to lobby their spouse? And if so, does that mean lobbyists who are married to Members of Congress cannot discuss policy with their spouse or have any contact with their spouseís staff? That sounds like a difficult rule to follow. Is it really the case?

Can Selling Something Be an Ethics Violation? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I read that Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., may face an ethics investigation for selling his house for too high a price. As a longtime House staffer, this worried me. Iíve sold several big-ticket items over the years ó cars, a boat, houses, and while Iíve always tried to make sure that the selling price is not too low, it never occurred to me to ensure that the price is not too high. Can it really be an ethics violation to get too good of a deal on something I sell?

Bundling Campaign Contributions Is Legal, but Carries Risks | A Question of Ethics

Q. I read about a recent court case where a lobbyist was sent to jail for arranging for a large group of people to make contributions to the campaign of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. I had always thought that it was okay for someone to help organize a big group of campaign donors. Isnít this known as ďbundling,Ē and isnít it legal?

What Does a Gift Tag Have to Do With Breaking the Law? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I worked on the campaign of someone who has just been elected to the House of Representatives for the first time, and I expect to work for him in the House as well beginning in January. I recently met with some experienced staffers to learn the ins-and-outs of working on the Hill. One thing they filled me in on is how strict the gift limitations are, but what really stuck out was that the permissibility of a gift supposedly can depend somehow on the language of the tag or card that comes with it. I had trouble wrapping my head around this. Is this really true?

Are Members Permitted to Help Companies in Which They Own Stock? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I heard that Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., may face ethics discipline because he assisted companies in which he owned stock. I know that Members are not supposed to use their position for their own personal gain, but I didnít realize that meant they are disqualified from taking action on behalf of any companies in which they might own stock. Is that really the rule?

The Year in Congressional Ethics | A Question of Ethics

A famous Tacitus quote about government corruption raises a chicken and egg question. One common translation is: ďThe more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.Ē But it is also sometimes cited as, ďThe more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state.Ē




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