Exceptions to Gift Prohibitions
Benefits of Employment
Benefits resulting from business, employment, or other outside activities if such benefits are normally provided to others in similar circumstances and the benefits are not enhanced due to the status of the executive branch employee. (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(1))
Informational materials in the form of books, articles, periodicals, other forms of written materials, audiotapes, videotapes, or other forms of communications provided to an executive branch employee. (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(2))
Close Personal Friendship
Gifts that are given for a non-business purpose that are motivated by close personal friendship to the extent that the gifts are specifically defined and authorized by the Rules of the Ethics Commission. (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(3))
The Rules of the Commission state that the Commission may consider the following factors when determining if a gift given to an executive branch employee by a lobbyist or employer of a lobbyist is given based on a close personal friendship:
- Whether a lobbyist or an employer of a lobbyist paid for the gift out of their own funds or whether the gift is instead being paid for out of the lobbyist’s business account or by an employer of the lobbyist.
- Whether the cost of the gift is taken as a business deduction by the lobbyist or employer of the lobbyist.
- Whether there has been a history of gift giving between the lobbyist or the employer of a lobbyist and the executive branch employee or his or her immediate family; and the nature of previous gift giving.
- Whether the executive branch employee or immediate family member has reciprocated with a gift to the lobbyist or the employer of the lobbyist in the past, and whether the gift has been of similar value.
- Whether the lobbyist or the employer of a lobbyist provides the same or similar items to other executive branch employees or their immediate families at the same time, who are not close personal friends.
- Whether the timing and circumstances of the gift are appropriate; whether a lobbyist or an employer of a lobbyist has a matter that is currently before the executive branch official.
- In the case of a gift given by an individual who works for an employer of a lobbyist, whether the gift-giver is involved in lobbying activities on behalf of the employer.
Sample merchandise, promotional items, and appreciation tokens, if such merchandise, items and tokens are routinely given to customers, suppliers or potential customers or supplies in the ordinary course of business. (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(4))
Honors and Awards
Unsolicited tokens or awards of appreciation, honorary degrees, or bona fide awards in recognition of public service in the form of a plaque, trophy, or similar item which may not be readily converted into cash. (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(5))
Benefits Available to the General Public
Opportunities and benefits made available to all members of an appropriate class of the general public, including but not limited to (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(6)):
- Discounts afforded to the general public or specific groups or occupations under normal business conditions except that such discounts may not be based on the status of the candidate or official;
- Prizes and awards given in public contests; and
- Benefits of participation in events held within the state and sponsored by or for the benefit of charitable organizatoins as defined in T.C.A. § 48-101-501 and provided by an employer of a lobbyist to an official in the executive branch or an official in the legislative branch, if:
- The event is open to participation by persons other than officals in the executive branch or officials in the legislative branch or the official's immediate family and any benefits received are not enhanced due to status of the official; or
- Invitations are extended to the entire general assembly.
Expenses for out-of-state travel, if the expenses are paid for by a governmental entity or an established and recognized organization of elected or appointed state government officials, staff of state government officials or both officials and staff. (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(7)(A))
Entertainment, food, refreshments, meals, beverages, amenities, goody bags, health screenings, lodging admission tickets and promotional items given in the exhibit hall of a conference that are provided as part of a conference if the conference is sponsored by an established and recognized organization of elected or appointed state government officials, staff of state government officials or both officials and staff. (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(7)(B))
In-State Events for General Assembly
Entertainment, food, refreshments, meals, beverages, or health screenings that are given in connection with an in-state event provided:
- The entire General Assembly is invited
- An invitation is delivered to each member of the General Assembly at least seven (7) days in advance of the event
- An invitation is delivered to the Ethics Commission at least seven (7) days in advance of the event
- Per person cost of the event (based on the number of persons invited) may not exceed $63 per person per day, excluding sales tax and gratuity (value of gift may not be reduced by dividing the cost between two or more hosts)
Within 30 days of the event, the employer of the lobbyist hosting the event must report to the Commission the cost of the event. (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(8))
Speaker or Panel Member at In-State Event
Entertainment, food, refreshments, meals, amenities, or beverages that are provided in connection with an in-state event provided (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(9)):
- You are a speaker or a panel member at a scheduled meeting of an established and recognized membership organization that has regular meetings
- The entertainment, food, refreshments, meals, amenities, and beverages provided do not exceed $63 in cost per day
In-State Event Hosted by Employer of Lobbyist
Food, refreshments, meals, or beverages that are provided by an employer of a lobbyist in connection with an in-state event provided (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(10)):
- The value of the items provided do not exceed $63 per day ($126 yearly total) and the value may not be reduced by dividing by two or more employer of lobbyists; and
- An officer or management-level employee of each employer of a lobbyist hosting the event must attend the event - a lobbyist is not considered to be an officer or management-level employee of an employer of a lobbyist paying for the event.
Occasional or incidental local travel for which no fare is ordinarily charged. (T.C.A. § 3-6-305(b)(11))