NAICU Washington Update

Private Colleges Should Review New Lobbying Rules

October 25, 2007

Recent amendments to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act revise ethics and lobbying rules for interacting with government officials. President Bush signed the new amendments into law on September 14. Private colleges should review the legislation with legal counsel to ensure that they are in compliance.

A memo distributed by the American Council on Education gives a detailed overview of the act, and of the changes affecting colleges and universities.

The biggest changes relate to gift and travel bans. Private colleges employing a lobbyist are banned from giving gifts and paying for meals for members of Congress and their staff. Private colleges that do not employ a lobbyist may give gifts or pay for a meal for members and staff, if they are valued at less than $50. On the other hand, public colleges - whether they employ a lobbyist or not - are allowed, as entities of the state government, to give gifts, buy meals, and provide tickets to home sporting events to congressional members and staff. Many members and staff, however, won't accept gifts or meals from anyone to avoid any perceived ethics violation.

New House rules aim to limit reimbursed travel for members of Congress and staff from private entities. However, the rule contains an exemption for private colleges and universities. New Senate rules allow private colleges to provide travel for senators through an exemption for all 501(c)3 organizations. Likewise, public colleges and universities are exempt from both the House and Senate rules. All travel requires pre-approval by the House and Senate ethics committees.

For federally-registered lobbyists at any entity, the rules include increased disclosures, as well as increased fines for not complying. For earmark projects in appropriations, there also are increased disclosures on the part of the member of Congress requesting the funds.

NAICU is a 501(c)3 organization, and government relations staff are registered lobbyists. We comply with all reporting requirements and follow the gift bans accordingly.

MORE News from NAICU