As part of the reforms contained in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (HLOGA), House Members are prohibited from "participating" (other than as a candidate for President or Vice-President) in an event honoring that Member during a national political party's convention if that event is directly paid for by a registered lobbyist or a private entity that employs or retains such a lobbyist.
In mid-December, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct ("House Ethics Committee") issued a memorandum clarifying how this restriction will apply to events at the 2008 Democratic and Republican Conventions in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul, respectively. Importantly, the guidance offered by the committee narrowly construes the restriction and gives organizations some flexibility in planning convention events involving House Members.
Specifically, the House Ethics Committee's guidance only limits the ability of lobbyists and their private-sector clients to "directly pay for" an event honoring a Member at a party convention. The fact that a sponsoring organization receives "some of its funding" for the event from a lobbyist or his/her client would not, by itself, "disqualify a Member from participating in the organization's event." Moreover, the restriction only applies to events that are held during the dates of the national convention. Receptions and other events that are held either before or after the convention are not covered by the new rule.
Further, the rule only prohibits attendance at events to honor a specific Member. An event organized to honor an entire delegation or caucus—without naming a specific Member or providing a special benefit to a particular Member—would be permissible provided that the Member's attendance otherwise complies with any other applicable rules (e.g., the widely attended event or reception exception).
Finally, the prohibition on attendance does not apply if the Member is listed on the invitation as a member of an honorary host committee so long as there are non-congressional committee members listed as well. However, the restriction would still apply if the Member is listed as a "special guest" or given some other sort of special privilege during the event.