Gifting-giving Rules

Gifting-giving Rules to Government Officials

The George Washington University’s location in the nation’s capital offers the GW community unrivaled access to governmental officials. Interactions between members of the university community and local, state, and federal government officials enhance the GW experience for faculty and students, while benefiting the institution as a whole. While OGCR encourages such engagements, we caution that ethics rules preclude many forms of gift-giving to government officials and their staff. 

Below are summaries of the rules governing gifts to different governmental bodies that the GW community has the most contact with. OGCR is available to provide assistance and guidance on how to navigate these complex and nuanced rules before offering a gift to a government official.  Please contact our office at [email protected] for assistance.

Individuals serving or working in the White House or federal agencies are permitted to accept gifts under $20, as long as gifts from the same donor do not exceed $50 in any calendar year. Gifts cannot be in the form of cash or cash equivalents. Federal officials and federal employees may accept modest items of food and non-alcoholic refreshments such as soft drinks, coffee, and donuts, not offered as part of a meal.

 

More information regarding gifts to federal employees can be found on Page 26 of this document.

United States Senators and Senate staffers are permitted to accept gifts under $50 as long as gifts from the same donor do not exceed $100 in any calendar year. Gifts cannot be in the form of cash or cash equivalents. 

Senators and Senate employees may generally accept "food or refreshment of a nominal value offered other than as part of a meal." This provision is interpreted to permit Senators and employees to accept free attendance at receptions when the fare will consist of reasonable hors d'oeuvres and refreshments and not a full meal. 

 

More information regarding the Senate’s gift rules can be found here.

Members serving in the United States House of Representatives and House staffers are permitted to accept gifts under $50 as long as gifts from the same donor do not exceed $100 in any calendar year. Gifts cannot be in the form of cash or cash equivalents. 

House members and House employees may generally accept "food or refreshment of a nominal value offered other than as part of a meal." This provision is interpreted to permit House Members and employees to accept free attendance at receptions when the fare will consist of reasonable hors d'oeuvres and refreshments and not a full meal. 

The House does offer an exception to the rule prohibiting Members and staff from accepting meals if the meal is included in an educational setting. House Members and staff may accept a meal if it is offered at an educational event hosted by a nonprofit, think tank, or university.  

 

More information regarding the House of Representative gift rules can be found here.

Individuals serving or working in the D.C. Mayor’s Office or D.C. agencies are permitted to accept gifts under $10, as long as gifts from the same donor do not exceed $20 in any calendar year. Gifts cannot be in the form of cash or cash equivalents. District officials and employees may accept modest items of food and non-alcoholic refreshments such as soft drinks, coffee, and donuts, not offered as part of a meal; unsolicited advertising or promotional items of nominal value; and admission while attending an event related to official duties.  

 

More information regarding the District of Columbia’s gift rules can be found here.

Members serving on the Council of the District of Columbia and Council staffers are permitted to accept gifts under $50 as long as gifts from the same donor do not exceed $100 in any calendar year. Gifts cannot be in the form of cash or cash equivalents. A Council employee may not accept any gift from a prohibited source which includes an entity seeking a financial relation with the District government; or operations that are subject to regulations by the District government.

 

More information regarding the Council of the District of Columbia’s gift rules can be found here.

Virginia lawmakers and Virginia state government employees are permitted to accept gifts under $100 as long as gifts from the same donor do not exceed $100 in any calendar year. 

Under Virginia law, a “gift” is any item having monetary value such as a gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan or forbearance. Virginia’s gift rules do not apply to food and drink consumed while attending an event related to official duties or awards of appreciation such as plaques or trophies. 

 

More information regarding Virginia’s gift rules can be found here.