House and Senate Rules for Convention Events Paid for by Lobbyists

As the fall elections draw nearer, the House Committee on Ethics has issued a reminder memorandum regarding permissible Member activity at national political conventions. While the Senate Select Committee on Ethics has not issued a memo specific to the 2012 conventions, a memo from February 2008 addresses events honoring Members at the national party conventions. The rules prohibit participation by a Member of Congress in an event honoring that Member if the event is paid for by a lobbyist or a private entity that retains or employs a registered lobbyist. The Senate rules provide that such events include those where a specific Member or Members are identified by name or title, or events honoring a group composed solely of Members of Congress. The House rules prohibiting lobbyist sponsorship apply to events where the Member is named, including through the use of any personal title, as an honoree (including "special guest") in any invitations, promotional materials, or publicity for the event.

The rules only apply to events held on those calendar dates in which the national party convention is in session, and accordingly do not extend to events outside this window, even if held in the host cities.

While both Chambers share the same general objective, several differences exist between the House and Senate rules, most notably regarding whether lobbyists may pay for events that honor a congressional delegation, committee, or caucus. The Senate rules specifically prohibit events honoring a group composed solely of Members of Congress; however, an event honoring state officials at all levels of government (e.g., "Louisiana Democratic Officials") would be allowed. Under the House rules, an event organized to honor an entire delegation, House committee, or caucus would be an event in which Members may participate provided that the event would otherwise be in compliance with the House gift rule. Another difference is that Senators may serve as featured speakers at an event without 'being honored' by their participation as a speaker.

The House rules also provide that a Member may participate in an event if the Member's name appears on a listing of honorary host committee members as long as the list includes the names of non-congressional committee members; Senate rules prohibit events where a specific Member or Members are identified by name or title. The more recent House memo highlights the 'directly paid for' component of the rule and specifies that a Member would not be disqualified from participating in an organization's event solely due to the fact that it received a portion of its funding for an event from a lobbyist or an entity that retains or employs lobbyists.

Restrictions on Fundraising for Democratic National Convention

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has announced that it will not accept contributions from corporations or federally-registered lobbyists to assist in paying for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The ban also includes in-kind contributions of goods and services from entities that received funds under the TARP program, or any other bailout program, unless the entity has repaid the government. In-kind contributions from other organizations, including corporations, are permitted, as are unlimited donations from nonprofit organizations. Individual contributions, including those from corporate executives, are subject to a $100,000 cap under the DNC's rule. The host committee in Charlotte has not adopted any such restrictions on its efforts to raise money for convention-related services.