In December 2012, the House Committee of Ethics (the "Committee") issued new regulations governing privately funded, officially connected travel by House Members, officers and employees. These new travel rules are not only applicable to House members and staff, but are also applicable to outside sponsors, including nonprofit organizations and associations.
The new travel regulations became effective on April 1, 2013. According to the new rules, travel requests for all trips must now be submitted to the Committee by the traveling House members and staff at least 30 days before the departure date. The new travel forms with detailed instructions are now available here. According to a Memorandum issued by the Committee on March 1, 2013, the submission deadline will be strictly enforced by the Committee. Thus, submissions failing to meet the 30-day deadline will be denied. (The full text of the Memorandum is available here.)
According to the new rules, private entities (such as associations) offering to provide travel or reimbursement for the traveling House members and staff must complete the new Pre-approval Forms for the travelers to submit directly to the Committee. The new Pre-approval Form requires the travel sponsor to certify that the trip will not be financed by a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent. In addition, the sponsor must check one of the following descriptions on the form:
- the primary trip sponsor has not accepted from any other sources funds intended directly or indirectly to finance any aspect of the trip, or
- the primary trip sponsor has accepted funds from other source(s) intended directly or indirectly to finance all or part of the trip and has enclosed disclosure forms from each of those entities, or
- the trip is arranged without regard to congressional participation and the primary trip sponsor has accepted funds only from entities that will receive a tangible benefit in exchange for those funds.
In addition to completing the new Pre-approval Forms, travel sponsors must complete the Post-Travel Disclosure Form and provide it to the House members and staff within 10 days of their return.
According to the Committee’s press release statement, significant consideration was given to whether nonprofit organizations operating pursuant to 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code should be distinguished by their relationship to other groups, including groups which retain lobbyists. However, the Committee did not identify a fair way to distinguish between different nonprofits. Instead, the Committee has included the disclosure requirements in the new forms to increase transparency. All private travel sponsors, including tax exempt trade associations and charitable organizations, must comply with these new travel regulations. For more information, click here.