[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 228 (Friday, November 27, 2015)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 74004-74018]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-29208]


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Proposed Rules
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains notices to the public of 
the proposed issuance of rules and regulations. The purpose of these 
notices is to give interested persons an opportunity to participate in 
the rule making prior to the adoption of the final rules.

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Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 228 / Friday, November 27, 2015 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 74004]]



OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS

5 CFR Part 2635

RIN 3209-AA04


Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive 
Branch; Amendment to the Standards Governing Solicitation and 
Acceptance of Gifts From Outside Sources

AGENCY: Office of Government Ethics (OGE).

ACTION: Proposed rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Office of Government Ethics is proposing to revise the 
portions of the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Executive Branch 
Employees that govern the solicitation and acceptance of gifts from 
outside sources. The proposed amendments modify the existing 
regulations to more effectively advance public confidence in the 
integrity of Federal officials. The proposed amendments would also 
incorporate past interpretive guidance, add and update regulatory 
examples, improve clarity, update citations and make technical 
corrections.

DATES: Written comments are invited and must be received on or before 
January 26, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, in writing, to OGE on this proposed 
rule, identified by RIN 3209-AA04, by any of the following methods:
    Email: [email protected]. Include the reference ``Proposed Amendments 
to Subpart B'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: (202) 482-9237.
    Mail/Hand Delivery/Courier: Office of Government Ethics, Suite 500, 
1201 New York Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20005-3917, Attention: 
``Proposed Amendments to Subpart B.''
    Instructions: All submissions must include OGE's agency name and 
the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN), 3209-AA04, for this proposed 
rulemaking. All comments, including attachments and other supporting 
materials, will become part of the public record and subject to public 
disclosure. Comments may be posted on OGE's Web site, www.oge.gov. 
Sensitive personal information, such as account numbers or Social 
Security numbers, should not be included. Comments generally will not 
be edited to remove any identifying or contact information.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher J. Swartz, Assistant 
Counsel, or Vincent J. Salamone, Associate Counsel, Office of 
Government Ethics, Suite 500, 1201 New York Avenue NW., Washington, DC 
20005-3917; Telephone: 202-482-9300; TTY: 800-877-8339; FAX: 202-482-
9237.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Background

    On August 7, 1992, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) 
published the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the 
Executive Branch (Standards), which are codified at 5 CFR part 2635. 
See 57 FR 35005-35067, as amended. Subpart B of part 2635 sets forth 
the regulations governing the solicitation and acceptance of gifts from 
outside sources by officers and employees of the Executive Branch. 
These regulations implement the gift restrictions set forth in 5 U.S.C. 
7353 and section 101(d) of Executive Order 12674, as modified by 
Executive Order 12731.
    Pursuant to section 402 of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, 
Public Law 95-521, codified at 5 U.S.C. Appendix IV, sec. 402, the 
Director of OGE is responsible for periodically reviewing, evaluating 
and updating the rules and regulations that pertain to ethics in the 
Executive Branch. In accordance with section 402, OGE has reviewed the 
regulations found in subpart B and is proposing changes in light of 
OGE's experience gained from application of the Standards since they 
became effective in February 1993.
    In formulating this proposed rule, OGE has consulted with the 
Department of Justice and the Office of Personnel Management pursuant 
to section 201(a) of Executive Order 12674, as modified by Executive 
Order 12731, and the authorities contained in title IV of the Ethics in 
Government Act of 1978, as amended. Prior to promulgating this proposed 
rule, OGE solicited the views of Executive Branch agency ethics 
officials through an electronic survey and multiple in-person meetings. 
OGE has considered the input received from these agency ethics 
officials and has incorporated many of their comments and suggestions 
into the proposed rule.

II. Regulatory Amendments to Subpart B

Technical Changes

    OGE proposes amending the Table of Contents to subpart B of the 
Standards to conform to the proposed substantive amendments to subpart 
B, which are explained elsewhere in this document. OGE also proposes a 
number of general technical and non-substantive changes that would 
apply throughout subpart B to enhance clarity and readability and to 
remove gender-specific terms from the substantive regulatory text. OGE 
also proposes to replace the term ``shall'' as used throughout the 
regulation with the terms ``will,'' ``must,'' or ``does'' where the 
term is used to indicate an affirmative obligation or requirement, and 
to replace the term ``shall not'' with the terms ``may not'' or ``does 
not'' as appropriate. These changes are intended to enhance clarity and 
do not constitute a substantive change to the regulation.

Proposed Sec.  2635.201 Overview and Considerations For Declining 
Otherwise Permissible Gifts

    Proposed Sec.  2635.201(a) reiterates the language that is 
contained in current Sec.  2635.201, and includes a new subheading 
``Overview.'' Proposed Sec.  2635.201(b) is new to the Standards. This 
section is entitled ``Considerations for declining otherwise 
permissible gifts.'' OGE is proposing the addition of this section 
because it is OGE's experience that employees and ethics officials 
sometimes focus on whether a regulatory exception permits the 
acceptance of an otherwise impermissible gift, and not on whether 
acceptance of the gift could affect the perceived integrity of the 
employee or the credibility and legitimacy of the agency's programs. To 
counter this tendency, OGE is proposing to add Sec.  2635.201(b)(1), 
which sets out a flexible, non-binding standard that employees are 
encouraged to use when deciding whether to accept a gift that would 
otherwise be permitted by this subpart. Specifically, this section 
encourages employees to consider the potential that a ``reasonable 
person'' would question their integrity if they

[[Page 74005]]

were to accept the gift. In a circumstance where an employee concludes 
that a reasonable person would question his or her integrity, the 
employee is encouraged to consider declining the gift.
    To assist employees in making this determination, OGE has added 
proposed Sec.  2635.201(b)(2), which sets out some factors that 
employees can consider when evaluating whether they should decline an 
otherwise permissible gift because acceptance might cause a reasonable 
person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question their 
integrity. Employees are not, however, required to consider these 
factors in every case; these factors are merely intended to be 
illustrative of the types of considerations that are relevant to this 
determination. In addition, because the regulatory exceptions represent 
OGE's determination that, in most cases, acceptance of a gift under the 
relevant exception will not adversely affect public confidence, and 
because the factors are inherently subjective, the proposed rule 
clarifies that an employee has not violated the subpart by accepting a 
gift under an exception found in Sec.  2635.204. The section concludes 
by encouraging employees to seek advice from an appropriate agency 
ethics official when making this determination or where there are 
questions related to other provisions of this subpart.

Proposed Sec.  2635.202 General Prohibition on Solicitation or 
Acceptance of Gifts

    OGE proposes revising the heading of Sec.  2635.202 to ``General 
prohibition on solicitation or acceptance of gifts.'' OGE proposes to 
move the provisions setting forth the limitations on use of the 
exceptions set out in current Sec.  2635.202(c) to redesignated Sec.  
2635.205. OGE believes that reordering the regulations to place the 
rules establishing limitations on the exceptions after the regulatory 
exceptions will produce a more logical and understandable ordering of 
the regulation.
    OGE proposes to revise current Sec.  2635.202(a) by moving the 
prohibitions on accepting gifts and soliciting gifts into separate 
paragraphs. OGE is proposing this revision to emphasize that the 
prohibition on soliciting gifts from prohibited sources, or that are to 
be given because of the employee's official position, is an independent 
restriction from the prohibition on accepting gifts that are restricted 
under subpart B.
    OGE proposes to reword current Sec.  2635.202(b) to increase 
clarity and readability. OGE also proposes to move this paragraph to 
Sec.  2635.202(c). This section describes the relationship between the 
Standards found in subpart B and the illegal gratuities statute, 18 
U.S.C. 201(c)(1)(B). This revision is technical in nature and does not 
affect the substance of the regulation, which has been consistent since 
the issuance of the Standards in 1992. OGE also proposes to include a 
statement reminding employees that, notwithstanding any exception 
provided in the subpart, no gift may be solicited or accepted if to do 
so would violate the federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. 201(b). OGE 
proposes to add a new Example 1 to paragraph (c) to illustrate a 
circumstance in which an employee's acceptance of a gift would violate 
the new Sec.  2635.202(c).

Proposed Sec.  2635.203 Definitions

    OGE proposes a number of changes to Sec.  2635.203(b), which 
defines the term ``gift'' as well as provides exclusions from that 
definition.
    OGE proposes to amend current Sec.  2635.203(b)(2), which excludes 
from the definition of the term ``gift'' certain presentation items 
with little intrinsic value, to permit employees to accept items that 
are ``primarily'' for presentation as opposed to only those that are 
``solely'' for presentation. OGE believes distinguishing between items 
intended for presentation based on whether the item hypothetically 
could have some independent use is not intuitive or necessary, so long 
as the presentation item is truly of ``little intrinsic value.'' Items 
such as watches, artwork, items containing precious metals or 
gemstones, fine crystal, or that otherwise have significant independent 
value would not qualify for this exclusion, even if they were inscribed 
or otherwise adorned with personalized information (such as the name of 
the donor, the date of an event, or the name of the recipient).
    Proposed Sec.  2635.203(b)(6) would clarify that continued 
participation in an employee welfare or benefit plan with a current or 
former employer would not constitute a gift for purposes of subpart B.
    OGE proposes to delete the Note following current paragraph (b)(7) 
stating that employees are prohibited from accepting certain frequent 
flyer program benefits that are earned from Government-financed travel, 
as it no longer reflects current law.
    Proposed Sec.  2635.203(b)(8) is new as an exclusion, and excludes 
from the definition of ``gift'' certain offers of free attendance to an 
event provided to a speaker on the day of his or her presentation. Such 
offers of free attendance are currently treated as gifts that employees 
are permitted to accept pursuant to an exception set out in current 
Sec.  2635.204(g)(1). As described in current Sec.  2635.204(g)(1), OGE 
views the employee's attendance in these circumstances as customary and 
necessary to allow the employee to carry out his or her assignment, and 
therefore views such offers of free attendance as not constituting a 
gift to either the agency or the employee. Moving the exception at 
Sec.  2635.204(g)(1) to the exclusion section at Sec.  2635.203(b)(8) 
reflects that long-time understanding. Advice OGE has previously 
provided on the application of current Sec.  2635.204(g)(1) would 
continue to be applicable to proposed Sec.  2635.203(b)(8).
    OGE has also provided that an offer of free attendance provided to 
an employee's spouse or another accompanying guest on the day the 
employee is presenting is also excluded from the gift rules in certain 
circumstances, which accords with the current exception for such 
attendees under Sec.  2635.204(g)(6). Likewise, OGE has excluded from 
the definition of ``gift'' an offer of free attendance to certain 
personnel, such as security details or press officers, who are assigned 
by the agency to perform official duties in support of the presenting 
employee. This regulatory exclusion accords with OGE's longstanding 
interpretation of current Sec.  2635.204(g)(1). See OGE DAEOgram DO-10-
003 (Feb. 18, 2010). OGE also proposes simplifying the language of the 
exclusion to cover ``Free attendance to an event provided by the 
sponsor of an event to . . . an employee who is assigned to present 
information on behalf of the agency . . .'' (emphasis added). Current 
Sec.  2635.204(g)(1) provides that an employee may accept an offer of 
free attendance to an event when he or she is assigned to participate 
as a speaker or panel participant or otherwise to present information 
on behalf of the agency. See also OGE Legal Advisory LA-12-05 (Sept. 7, 
2012). The proposed regulation is consistent with this advice.
    OGE proposes to include ten examples to Sec.  2635.203(b) to 
provide clarification to the regulatory exclusions to the definition of 
``gift.'' These examples are not intended to be comprehensive. Proposed 
Example 1 to paragraph (b)(1) clarifies that the exclusion for ``modest 
items of food and refreshment'' would not cover alcoholic beverages 
served at a Government contractor's holiday party. Proposed Example 1, 
Example 2, and Example 3 to paragraph (b)(2) clarify the meaning

[[Page 74006]]

of ``items with little intrinsic value . . . which are intended 
primarily for presentation.'' Proposed Example 1 and Example 2 to 
paragraph (b)(5) both clarify the exclusion for rewards and prizes 
given to participants in contests or events open to the public. Example 
1 to paragraph (b)(7) emphasizes that employees may accept certain 
travel-related benefits, such as frequent flyer miles, pursuant to an 
applicable statute or regulation. OGE proposes to move Example 4 
following current Sec.  2635.204(g) to Example 1 to paragraph (b)(8) 
following proposed Sec.  2635.203(b)(8). OGE proposes to add Example 2 
and Example 3 to paragraph (b)(8) to provide additional guidance on 
what constitutes ``present[ing] information'' on behalf of an 
employee's agency.
    OGE is proposing to revise the first sentence of Sec.  2635.203(c), 
which sets out the definition of ``market value'' as used throughout 
the subpart. The current definition states that ``Market value means 
the retail cost the employee would incur to purchase the gift.'' OGE 
has found that this definition can lead to confusion and in certain 
circumstances may not be applicable at all if the gift does not have a 
``retail'' price, e.g., if the gift takes the form of services or 
intangibles. As OGE stated in 1992, the purpose of including a 
definition of ``market value'' was to ``ensure that the employee pays 
the fair value'' of the gift and to allow the employee to ``determine 
the value or the amount to be reimbursed without having to consult the 
donor as to the donor's cost.'' 57 FR 35006, 35014 (Aug. 7, 1992); see 
also OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 96 x 20. To better accord with OGE's 
intent that the term ``market value'' reflect the price the employee 
would pay for the gift if he or she were to purchase it at fair value 
and on the open market, OGE has amended the first sentence of the 
definition to read: ``Market value means the cost that a member of the 
general public would reasonably expect to incur to purchase the gift.'' 
The proposed change also reflects OGE's interpretation that the 
``market value'' of a gift is the cost the recipient would incur to 
purchase the item on the open market, not the cost that the donor paid 
to acquire the gift. This principle is illustrated in proposed Example 
1 and new Example 2 to paragraph (c). Proposed Example 1 to paragraph 
(c) also illustrates OGE's longstanding guidance that the market value 
of a gift is not eliminated or significantly diminished because the 
item has been inscribed or otherwise adorned with the donor or 
recipient's name or information related to an event at which the gift 
was presented. Proposed Example 3 to paragraph (c) is current Example 2 
following Sec.  2635.203(c) without substantive change. Example 4 and 
Example 5 to paragraph (c) are provided to clarify how to calculate the 
market value of certain gifts that are not available for retail 
purchase, such as free admission to a private skybox or an invitation-
only event where an entry fee is not charged to attendees.
    OGE proposes to modify the formatting of Sec.  2635.203(e) and 
Sec.  2635.203(f) to enhance clarity. OGE also proposes to amend Sec.  
2635.203(f)(1) to expand the definition of ``indirectly solicited or 
accepted'' gifts to include gifts that are given to ``a member of the 
employee's household'' on the basis of the person's relationship with 
the employee and with the employee's knowledge and acquiescence. OGE 
proposes to amend Sec.  2635.203(f)(2) to clarify that employees who 
solicit or accept funds or other support for a charitable organization 
in accordance with subpart H of the Standards have not indirectly 
solicited or accepted a gift under subpart B. Proposed Example 1 to 
paragraph (e) is current Example 1 following Sec.  2635.203(e). 
Proposed Example 2 to paragraph (e) is current Example 2 following 
Sec.  2635.203(e). Proposed Example 1 to paragraph (f)(2) is current 
Example 1 following Sec.  2635.203(f).
    OGE proposes removing current Sec.  2635.203(g), defining the term 
``vendor promotional training.'' The term is no longer used in the 
substantive provisions of the subpart, and the definition is therefore 
unnecessary.
    OGE proposes to add a new Sec.  2635.203(g) defining the term 
``free attendance'' as used throughout the subpart. The language found 
in this definition is based on the definition of ``free attendance'' 
currently found in Sec.  2635.204(g)(4). Because the term is used 
throughout the subpart, OGE believes it is more logical for the 
definition to appear in Sec.  2635.203. OGE has amended the definition 
as it is currently found in Sec.  2635.204(g)(4) to permit employees 
who are presenters at an event to accept meals outside of a group 
context, so long as the meal is open to all presenters and is hosted by 
the sponsor of the event. OGE is aware that it is customary for the 
sponsors of an event to provide a separate luncheon or dinner for 
participating presenters. OGE believes that these meals are often 
beneficial to the agency because the agency employee is able to 
interact with other presenters, receive instructions, and hear about 
program goals or changes. OGE believes that where a meal is provided to 
all other presenters, the meal does not constitute a separate gift for 
the personal benefit of the employee.
    OGE has determined that the explanatory Note that follows current 
Sec.  2635.204(g) is unnecessary. OGE therefore proposes to remove the 
Note.

Proposed Sec.  2635.204 Exceptions to the Prohibition on Acceptance of 
Certain Gifts

    OGE proposes retitling this section to provide additional clarity 
as to the substantive regulatory text. OGE also proposes amending the 
introductory clause to improve readability.
    OGE is proposing to revise and add a number of examples to Sec.  
2635.204(a) to clarify the application of the rule in various contexts. 
Proposed Examples 1 through 5 to paragraph (a) are unchanged except for 
technical modification. Proposed Example 6 to paragraph (a) is new and 
emphasizes that an employee may not rely on the exception for gifts of 
$20 or less to accept a group gift with an aggregate market value in 
excess of $20. Proposed Example 7 to paragraph (a) is new and 
incorporates OGE's advice that store gift cards that are worth $20 or 
less may be accepted under Sec.  2635.204(a), but that general-use 
prepaid gift cards may not be accepted under the exception, even if 
their value is below the regulatory threshold. See OGE Legal Advisory 
LA-15-04 (April 30, 2015). General-use prepaid cards operate similarly 
to debit cards in practice and are therefore akin to gifts of cash. See 
id.
    OGE proposes amending Sec.  2635.204(b) to incorporate OGE's long-
standing interpretation that the exception for gifts based on a 
personal relationship applies only to gifts provided by an individual. 
As used in the Standards, the term ``individual'' refers only to a 
natural person, i.e., a human being. See 5 CFR 2635.102(k) (defining 
``person'' to include an ``individual'' as well as a ``corporation'' 
``company'' or ``other organization or institution''). This accords 
with the common understanding of the term. See Mohammed v. Palestinian 
Authority, 132 S. Ct. 1702, 1707 (2012). OGE also proposes amending 
Sec.  2635.204(b) to make explicit that in determining whether a gift 
is motivated by a personal relationship, employees and agencies may 
consider not only the ``history of the relationship'' but also the 
``nature of the relationship.'' This amendment accords with advice that 
OGE has issued on this exception in the past. See OGE Informal Advisory 
Opinion 06 x 3 (Mar. 21, 2006).

[[Page 74007]]

    Proposed Example 1 to paragraph (b) is revised to reflect 
circumstances that arise more frequently. Proposed Example 2 to 
paragraph (b) has no substantive change. Proposed Example 3 to 
paragraph (b) is new and provides guidance on the application of the 
exception at Sec.  2635.204(b) to personal contacts made through social 
media networking Web sites.
    OGE is proposing to revise Sec.  2635.204(c)(1) to clarify that an 
employee may accept a reduction or waiver of membership or other fees 
to an organization where the only restriction on membership is related 
to professional qualifications and the reduction or waiver is available 
to all Government employees or all uniformed military personnel. OGE 
proposes to amend Sec.  2635.204(c)(2) to explain that ``opportunities 
and benefits'' under this section may include free attendance or 
participation at an event if the other criteria of the section are met. 
OGE also proposes to amend Sec.  2635.204(c)(3) to provide that the 
general prohibition on an employee accepting for personal use a benefit 
to which the Government is entitled does not apply when the employee is 
specifically authorized by statute or regulation to retain the benefit. 
Proposed Example 1 to paragraph (c)(2) illustrates circumstances under 
which an employee would not be able to accept a discount under Sec.  
2635.204(c)(2)(i), as it would be related to the employee's Government 
employment. Proposed Example 2 and Example 3 to paragraph (c)(2) and 
Example 1 to paragraph (c)(3) are renumbered but not substantively 
changed.
    OGE proposes to restructure Sec.  2635.204(d), Awards and honorary 
degrees, to clarify this exception. Proposed Sec.  2635.204(d)(l) 
covers awards. The elements are the same as currently set forth in 
Sec.  2635.204(d), but are reordered for clarity. Proposed Sec.  
2635.204(d)(2) defines an ``Established program of recognition.'' 
Proposed Sec.  2635.204(d)(3), entitled ``Honorary degrees,'' is 
current Sec.  2635.204(d)(2). As proposed, this paragraph updates the 
citation for the definition of an institution of higher education found 
at 20 U.S.C. 1001 and provides that employees may also accept honorary 
degrees from ``similar foreign institution[s] of higher education.'' 
For purposes of this exception, a ``foreign institution of higher 
education'' would include an institution of higher education that is 
physically located outside of the United States if it is accredited by 
a recognized quality assurance or accreditation organization. OGE 
proposes to add a note following Sec.  2635.204(d)(3) reminding agency 
ethics officials that before approving the acceptance of an honorary 
degree from a foreign institution of higher education, the agency 
should also consider the potential applicability of the Emoluments 
Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Foreign Gifts and Decorations 
Act.
    Proposed Sec.  2635.204(d)(4) is similar to current Sec.  
2635.204(d)(3), but is reworded to clarify that, for the purpose of 
determining whether the value of an award exceeds $200 (and therefore 
is subject to additional restrictions), the value of the free 
attendance at the event does not need to be included but the cost of 
any travel expenses do. This is consistent with OGE's current 
interpretation, as reflected in Example 3 in the awards section of the 
current regulation.
    OGE also proposes to amend the examples to Sec.  2635.204(d) by 
adding one new example and updating the remaining example designations. 
Proposed Example 1 to paragraph (d)(1), Example 3 to paragraph (d)(1), 
and Example 1 to paragraph (d)(3) are currently in the regulation, and 
OGE proposes no substantive amendment to these examples. Proposed 
Example 2 to paragraph (d)(1) is a new example added to emphasize the 
existing rule that even where there is an ``established program of 
recognition,'' an employee may not accept the award if the entity that 
is giving the award has interests that may be substantially affected by 
the performance or nonperformance of the employee's official duties.
    OGE proposes to amend Sec.  2635.204(e) by moving the definition of 
``employment'' currently found at Sec.  2635.204(e)(4) to a new Sec.  
2635.204(e)(5). Currently the term ``employment'' is defined by cross-
reference to the definition of ``employment'' in Sec.  2635.603(a). New 
Sec.  2635.204(e)(5) removes the cross-reference and incorporates the 
substantive definition found in Sec.  2635.603(a), i.e., ```employment' 
means any form of non-Federal employment or business relationship 
involving the provision of personal services.'' OGE is also proposing 
to add a new subparagraph (e)(4) providing that an employee may accept 
an invitation from his or her former employer to attend a reception or 
similar event, and accept benefits that are provided at the event, if 
other former employees have also been invited to attend and it is clear 
that these benefits are not being offered or enhanced because of the 
employee's official position. There is currently some ambiguity in this 
regard because of the phrasing of the existing paragraph. OGE does not 
believe a distinction should be made between events based on current 
and former business or employment activities. Under either situation, 
the invitation and any benefits must clearly be offered because of the 
employee's former or current non-Government position and not because of 
Federal employment or the official's status. Proposed Example 1 to 
paragraph (e)(4) illustrates this provision. There are no substantive 
changes to the other examples to paragraph (e).
    OGE proposes to amend Sec.  2635.204(f) to clarify that a gift that 
may be accepted in connection with certain political activities 
includes offers of free attendance to an accompanying spouse and other 
guests. Proposed Example 1 to paragraph (f) is currently Example 1 
following Sec.  2635.204(f). There is no substantive change to this 
example.
    OGE is proposing a number of substantive revisions to Sec.  
2635.204(g). As described above, OGE proposes to remove Sec.  
2635.204(g)(1), Speaking and similar engagements. The substance of the 
exception will be included in a new exclusion from the definition of 
``gift'' at proposed Sec.  2635.203(b)(8). Proposed Sec.  2635.204(g) 
will focus on when an employee may accept an invitation of free 
attendance at a ``widely attended gathering.'' Accordingly, OGE 
proposes re-titling Sec.  2635.204(g) as ``Gifts of free attendance at 
widely attended gatherings.'' Proposed Sec.  2635.204(g)(1) would set 
forth the rule for when an employee may accept an unsolicited gift of 
free attendance at such a gathering, while proposed subparagraphs 
(g)(2)-(g)(5) provide definitions and concepts that apply throughout 
Sec.  2635.204(g). Proposed Sec.  2635.204(g)(6) is similar to current 
Sec.  2635.204(g)(6), but has been amended to clarify that an employee 
may bring only one accompanying guest under the authority found in that 
section. This has been OGE's interpretation of the regulation since its 
promulgation in 1996. See 61 FR 42965, 42968 (Aug. 20, 1996).
    Proposed Sec.  2635.204(g)(1) provides that an employee may accept 
a gift of free attendance to attend a widely attended gathering only 
upon receiving a written authorization from the agency designee. This 
is a change from the current rule. Currently, a written determination 
is required only when the person extending the invitation has interests 
that may be substantially affected by the performance or non-
performance of the employee's official duties, or is an organization 
the majority of whose members have such interests.
    Although OGE is sympathetic to agency concerns that requiring that 
all

[[Page 74008]]

determinations be made in writing may increase workload, OGE believes 
that increased access to certain technologies since the Standards were 
promulgated, such as the Internet and mobile devices, reduces this 
concern. Additionally, OGE believes that requiring a written 
authorization on all occasions will promote the public's confidence in 
Government operations.
    Proposed Sec.  2635.204(g)(2) defines ``widely attended 
gatherings.'' This definition is similar to the definition that is used 
in current Sec.  2635.204(g)(2). OGE is proposing to amend the current 
definition to highlight that an event does not qualify as a widely 
attended gathering unless it is ``expected that . . . there will be an 
opportunity to exchange ideas and views among invited persons.'' OGE 
has long held that an event does not meet the criteria of this 
exception if an opportunity to exchange ideas and views is not 
available. See, e.g., OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 08 x 1 (Jan. 30, 
2008) (stating that ``the `widely attended gathering' exception cannot 
be used to justify free attendance at an event that is not structured 
to allow interchange among attendees''); OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 
07 x 14 (Dec. 5, 2007) (stating that OGE ``considers it fundamental 
that a WAG must provide the opportunity for `an exchange of ideas' with 
a large and diverse group. . . . If an event is so structured that an 
employee has little opportunity to exchange views with a large and 
diverse number of persons, then the very purpose of the exception would 
be defeated.''); OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 99 x 2 (March 15, 1999). 
This amendment is being proposed to codify OGE's long-standing 
interpretation.
    Proposed Sec.  2635.204(g)(3) describes the finding that the agency 
designee must make before authorizing an employee to accept an offer of 
free attendance at a widely attended gathering. The proposed rule does 
not require a particular degree of specificity in making this finding, 
but does require written evidence that the determination was made. For 
example, an email from the agency designee to the employee indicating 
the designee's approval would be sufficient. This section also sets out 
the limitations that apply when the gift of free attendance is from 
someone other than the sponsor, including restrictions on the aggregate 
value of such gifts. OGE has set the ceiling for nonsponsor gifts of 
free attendance to match the threshold set by the General Service 
Administration (GSA) as the ``minimal value'' level used in the 
regulations implementing the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, 5 
U.S.C. 7342. OGE raises this threshold on a three-year basis to match 
the dollar value set by GSA. The last time the regulatory ceiling was 
raised was in 2014. See, e.g., 79 FR 28605 (May 19, 2014).
    As described above, OGE proposes removing Sec.  2635.204(g)(4) and 
the explanatory Note following the regulation, which sets out the 
definition of ``free attendance'' for the purposes of Sec.  
2635.204(g), because there is now a proposed subpart-wide definition of 
``free attendance'' at Sec.  2635.203(g). OGE proposes adding a new 
Sec.  2635.204(g)(4) establishing factors the agency designee may 
consider in determining whether the agency's interest in having the 
employee attend the event outweighs the potential that the employee may 
be, or may appear to be, improperly influenced in the performance of 
his or her duties by accepting the gift.
    OGE proposes to reword Sec.  2635.204(g)(5) to more clearly state 
the criteria that apply when making a determination that a gift is from 
a person other than the sponsor.
    Because the exception for widely attended gatherings generates more 
questions than perhaps any other gift exception, OGE has provided eight 
examples to the regulation. Proposed Example 1 to paragraph (g) is part 
of current Example 1 following Sec.  2635.204(g), but has been modified 
to illustrate when acceptance would not be permitted under the 
exception because the value of the gift from a nonsponsor is in excess 
of the regulatory threshold. Example 2 to paragraph (g) is new, and 
illustrates when acceptance would not be permitted under the exception 
because the gift is from a nonsponsor and the event is not expected to 
be attended by more than 100 persons. Example 3 to paragraph (g) is 
part of current Example 1 following Sec.  2635.204(g), but has been 
modified to illustrate when acceptance could be permitted under the 
exception because the gift is from the sponsor of the event. Example 4 
to paragraph (g) is current Example 2 following Sec.  2635.204(g) 
modified to account for changes in the regulatory dollar threshold. 
Example 5 to paragraph (g) is current Example 3 following Sec.  
2635.204(g). Example 6 to paragraph (g) is current Example 5 following 
Sec.  2635.204(g). Example 7 to paragraph (g) is current Example 6 
following Sec.  2635.204(g) modified to reflect that all widely 
attended gathering authorizations must be in writing. Proposed Example 
8 to paragraph (g) is new, and explains that an employee may not accept 
gifts of transportation to or from an event pursuant to the exception 
at Sec.  2635.204(g). This is consistent with OGE's longstanding 
interpretation of the definition.
    OGE proposes to revise Sec.  2635.204(h) to clarify that an 
employee may accept an invitation to attend a social event permitted 
under the current rule only when that invitation is unsolicited. OGE 
also proposes clarifying that the gift exception includes food, 
refreshments, and entertainment that are provided to the employee's 
spouse or other accompanying guests. OGE further proposes to add a new 
Sec.  2635.204(h)(3) to require an employee to receive a written 
determination that the employee's attendance at the event complies with 
the proposed standard set out at Sec.  2635.201(b) when either the 
sponsor of the event or the person extending the invitation is not an 
individual. If the event is being hosted by an organization or the 
invitation is from an organization, as opposed to an individual, OGE 
believes that it is appropriate to require an independent written 
determination by an agency ethics official confirming that the 
employee's acceptance of free meals, refreshments, and entertainment 
would not cause a reasonable person to question the employee's 
integrity under the standard found in proposed Sec.  2635.201(b). OGE 
proposes removing the examples following Sec.  2635.204(h), and 
replacing them with new Example 1 to paragraph (h) illustrating a 
situation in which acceptance under this paragraph would be permitted.
    OGE proposes to amend Sec.  2635.204(i) to clarify that gifts of 
meals, refreshments, and entertainment provided in a foreign area may 
be accepted only when unsolicited. OGE has also updated the citations 
throughout the regulation.
    OGE proposes revising Sec.  2635.204(k) to include a cross-
reference to Sec.  2635.105, which sets forth the requirements that 
agencies must follow to promulgate supplemental agency regulations.
    OGE proposes to revise Sec.  2635.204(l) by removing the Note 
following paragraph (1), as it is not necessary for understanding the 
scope or substance of the exception.
    OGE proposes to add a new gift exception for unsolicited gifts of 
informational materials at proposed Sec.  2635.204(m). Executive Branch 
employees occasionally receive unsolicited gifts of books and 
periodicals. These items are often given with the goal of communicating 
the ideas and positions of the donor rather than personally benefitting 
the individual employee. The proposed gift exception would allow 
acceptance of these materials when either they are less

[[Page 74009]]

than $100 or, if they are in excess of $100, there has been a 
determination that their acceptance accords with the general standard 
found at proposed Sec.  2635.201(b). An employee could not use the 
proposed exception to accept entertainment materials, such as novels, 
audio or video recordings of entertainment programs, or pictures, 
photographs, or artwork intended for display or decoration. Section 
(m)(2) provides guidance on what constitutes informational materials. 
OGE also proposes providing two new examples to illustrate this 
exception.

Proposed Sec.  2635.205 Limitations on Use of Exceptions

    As previously described, OGE is proposing to move the limitations 
on employees' ability to use and rely on the exceptions in Sec.  
2635.204, which were previously located at Sec.  2635.202(c), to Sec.  
2635.205. OGE further proposes to revise the regulatory text of 
proposed Sec.  2635.205(b), which is current Sec.  2635.202(c)(2), by 
rewording this paragraph to prohibit an employee from ``[u]s[ing], or 
permit[ing] the use of, the employee's Government position, or any 
authority associated with public office, to solicit or coerce the 
offering of a gift.'' This rewording is consistent with the language 
currently found in subpart G of the Standards, which broadly prohibits 
employees from using their public office for private gain. See 5 CFR 
2635.702(a).
    Some exceptions would permit employees to solicit certain gifts in 
limited circumstances where it is clear that they have not used their 
official positions to induce the offering of the gifts, as in the case 
of an employee who solicits a gift from his or her spouse even though 
the spouse is employed by a prohibited source, pursuant to the 
exception at Sec.  2635.204(b). These exceptions include: Sec.  
2635.204(b) (Gifts based on a personal relationship); Sec.  2635.204(c) 
(Discounts and similar benefits); Sec.  2635.204(d) (Awards and 
honorary degrees); Sec.  2635.204(e) (Gifts based on outside business 
or employment relationships); Sec.  2635.204(f) (Gifts in connection 
with political activities permitted by the Hatch Act Reform 
Amendments); Sec.  2635.204(j) (Gifts to the President or Vice 
President); Sec.  2635.204(k) (Gifts authorized by supplemental agency 
regulation); and Sec.  2635.204(l) (Gifts accepted under specific 
statutory authority). However, these exceptions would continue to 
prohibit employees from using the authority of their positions to 
solicit or coerce the offering of gifts. They would also continue to 
prohibit employees from soliciting gifts to be given because of the 
employee's position.
    Other exceptions would bar solicitation of gifts under any 
circumstances, even where employees have not used the authority of 
their positions to influence or induce the giving of the gift. To 
emphasize this broader prohibition, OGE retained, and in some cases 
added, language in these exceptions clarifying that they apply only to 
the acceptance of ``unsolicited'' gifts. These exceptions include: 
Sec.  2635.204(a) (Gifts of $20 or less); Sec.  2635.204(g) (Gifts of 
free attendance at widely attended gatherings); Sec.  2635.204(h) 
(Social invitations); Sec.  2635.204(i) (Meals, refreshments and 
entertainment in foreign areas); and Sec.  2635.204(m) (Gifts of 
informational materials).
    OGE proposes to expand the description of the federal bribery 
statute, found at proposed Sec.  2635.205(d)(1), to more closely follow 
the text of the law. OGE also proposes to add two new limitations on 
the use of the exceptions found at Sec.  2635.204. Proposed Sec.  
2635.205(e) would bar an employee from relying on an exception to the 
general gift prohibition when the acceptance of the gift would be 
prohibited by Executive Order. Similarly, proposed Sec.  2635.205(f) 
would bar an employee from relying on an exception to the general gift 
prohibition when the acceptance of the gift would be prohibited by 
supplemental agency regulation issued with the concurrence of OGE.
    OGE proposes removing the limitation currently found at Sec.  
2635.202(c)(5) dealing with the acceptance of vendor promotional 
training. This limitation was originally included to ensure that any 
gift would be consistent with the guidelines on vendor promotional 
training in the Federal Information Resources Management Regulation, 
which was issued by the General Services Administration (GSA). See 57 
FR 35006, 35012-13 (Aug. 7, 1992). However, that GSA regulation was 
rescinded in 1996.
    Proposed Example 1 to paragraph (c) is current Example 1 following 
Sec.  2635.202(c)(3).

Proposed Sec.  2635.206 Proper Disposition of Prohibited Gifts

    OGE proposes to move the regulations pertaining to the proper 
disposition of prohibited gifts from Sec.  2635.205 to Sec.  2635.206.
    OGE proposes to modify the language currently found at Sec.  
2635.205(a), and redesignated at Sec.  2635.206(a), to enhance 
readability, to add headings to the subparagraphs, and to emphasize 
that employees must promptly dispose of gifts that are accepted in 
violation of the subpart. OGE also proposes to add a sentence 
explaining that the obligation to dispose of prohibited gifts is 
independent of an agency's decision to initiate corrective or 
disciplinary action.
    Currently, Sec.  2635.205(a)(1) provides that an employee who 
receives a tangible gift that is prohibited by the subpart must either 
return the gift to the donor or pay the donor the market value. 
Proposed Sec.  2635.206(a)(1) would amend the regulation to provide 
employees with the option of destroying gifts with a market value not 
in excess of $100. OGE understands that on occasion it may be 
impossible, cost-prohibitive, or time-consuming for the employee or 
agency to return the prohibited gift. This could be the case, for 
example, if the donor was unknown or unreachable. In these cases, where 
the gift is a tangible item and the market value is $100 or less, OGE 
believes the Government's interest may be better served by permitting 
an employee to destroy the gift. Destruction may be carried out by 
physical destruction or by permanently discarding the gift by placing 
it in a waste receptacle. OGE has provided examples illustrating proper 
gift disposition at the end of the relevant paragraphs.
    OGE proposes revising Sec.  2635.206(a)(2) for technical reasons. 
Proposed Sec.  2635.206(a)(4) updates the citation that relates to 
disposition of gifts received from foreign governments or international 
organizations and strikes the language related to disposal of materials 
related to official travel. The latter provision has become obsolete 
following statutory changes occurring after the original promulgation 
of the Standards.
    OGE proposes to add a new Sec.  2635.206(d) to encourage employees 
to record any actions that they take to dispose of gifts that cannot be 
accepted under the subpart.

III. Matters of Regulatory Procedure

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    As Director of the Office of Government Ethics, I certify under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. chapter 6) that this proposed rule 
would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities because it primarily affects current Federal Executive 
Branch employees.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. chapter 35) does not apply 
because this regulation does not contain information collection 
requirements that

[[Page 74010]]

require approval of the Office of Management and Budget.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    For purposes of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 
chapter 5, subchapter II), this proposed rule would not significantly 
or uniquely affect small governments and will not result in increased 
expenditures by State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, 
or by the private sector, of $100 million or more (as adjusted for 
inflation) in any one year.

Executive Order 13563 and Executive Order 12866

    Executive Orders 13563 and 12866 direct agencies to assess all 
costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if 
regulation is necessary, to select the regulatory approaches that 
maximize net benefits (including economic, environmental, public health 
and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). Executive Order 
13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, 
of reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility. 
This rule has been designated as a ``significant regulatory action'' 
although not economically significant, under section 3(f) of Executive 
Order 12866. Accordingly this rule has been reviewed by the Office of 
Management and Budget.

Executive Order 12988

    As Director of the Office of Government Ethics, I have reviewed 
this proposed rule in light of section 3 of Executive Order 12988, 
Civil Justice Reform, and certify that it meets the applicable 
standards provided therein.

List of Subjects in 5 CFR Part 2635

    Conflict of interests, Executive Branch standards of ethical 
conduct, Government employees.

    Approved: November 9, 2015.
Walter M. Shaub, Jr.,
Director, Office of Government Ethics.

    Accordingly, for the reasons set forth in the preamble, the Office 
of Government Ethics proposes to amend 5 CFR part 2635 as set forth 
below:

PART 2635--STANDARDS OF ETHICAL CONDUCT FOR EMPLOYEES OF THE 
EXECUTIVE BRANCH

0
1. The authority citation for part 2635 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 5 U.S.C. 7301, 7351, 7353; 5 U.S.C. App. (Ethics in 
Government Act of 1978); E.O. 12674, 54 FR 15159, 3 CFR, 1989 Comp., 
p. 215, as modified by E.O. 12731, 55 FR 42547, 3 CFR, 1990 Comp., 
p. 306.

0
2. Revise subpart B of part 2635 to read as follows:

Subpart B--Gifts From Outside Sources

Sec.
2635.201 Overview and considerations for declining otherwise 
permissible gifts.
2635.202 General prohibition on solicitation or acceptance of gifts.
2635.203 Definitions.
2635.204 Exceptions to the prohibition on acceptance of certain 
gifts.
2635.205 Limitations on use of exceptions.
2635.206 Proper disposition of prohibited gifts.

Subpart B--Gifts From Outside Sources


Sec.  2635.201  Overview and considerations for declining otherwise 
permissible gifts.

    (a) Overview. This subpart contains standards that prohibit an 
employee from soliciting or accepting any gift from a prohibited source 
or any gift given because of the employee's official position, unless 
the item is excluded from the definition of a gift or falls within one 
of the exceptions set forth in this subpart.
    (b) Considerations for declining otherwise permissible gifts. (1) 
Every employee has a responsibility to the United States and its 
citizens to place loyalty to the Constitution, laws, and ethical 
principles above personal gain. An employee's actions should promote 
the public's trust that this fundamental responsibility is being met. 
Even when acceptance of a gift would be permitted by one of the 
exceptions contained in Sec.  2635.204, it is frequently prudent for an 
employee to decline a gift offered by a prohibited source or because of 
the employee's official position. In determining whether acceptance of 
a gift otherwise permitted by an exception set forth in Sec.  2635.204 
would be prudent, an employee should consider whether a reasonable 
person with knowledge of the relevant facts would question the 
employee's integrity.
    (2) In considering whether acceptance of a gift would lead a 
reasonable person to question the employee's integrity, an employee may 
consider, among other factors:
    (i) Whether the gift has a high or low market value;
    (ii) Whether the gift was provided by a person or organization who 
has interests that may be affected substantially by the performance or 
nonperformance of the employee's official duties;
    (iii) Whether acceptance of the gift would lead the employee to 
feel a sense of obligation to the donor;
    (iv) Whether acceptance of the gift would reasonably create an 
appearance that the employee is providing the donor with preferential 
treatment or access to the Government;
    (v) With regard to a gift of free attendance at an event, whether 
the Government is also providing persons with views or interests that 
differ from those of the donor with access to the Government;
    (vi) With regard to a gift of free attendance at an event, whether 
the event is open to interested members of the public or 
representatives of the news media;
    (vii) Whether acceptance of the gift would cause a reasonable 
person to question the employee's ability to act impartially; and
    (viii) Whether acceptance of the gift would interfere with the 
employee's conscientious performance of official duties.
    (3) Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(1) of this section, an employee 
who accepts a gift that qualifies for an exception under Sec.  2635.204 
does not violate this subpart or the Principles of Ethical Conduct set 
forth in Sec.  2635.101(b).
    (4) Employees who have questions regarding this subpart, including 
whether the employee should decline a gift that would otherwise be 
permitted under an exception found in Sec.  2635.204, should seek 
advice from an agency ethics official. See Sec.  2635.107(b).


Sec.  2635.202  General prohibition on solicitation or acceptance of 
gifts.

    (a) Prohibition on soliciting gifts. Except as provided in this 
subpart, an employee may not, directly or indirectly:
    (1) Solicit a gift from a prohibited source; or
    (2) Solicit a gift to be given because of the employee's official 
position.
    (b) Prohibition on accepting gifts. Except as provided in this 
subpart, an employee may not, directly or indirectly:
    (1) Accept a gift from a prohibited source; or
    (2) Accept a gift given because of the employee's official 
position.
    (c) Relationship to illegal gratuities statute. A gift accepted 
pursuant to an exception found in this subpart will not constitute an 
illegal gratuity otherwise prohibited by 18 U.S.C. 201(c)(1)(B), unless 
it is accepted in return for being influenced in the performance of an 
official act. As more fully described in Sec.  2635.205(d)(1), an 
employee may not solicit or accept a gift if to do so would be 
prohibited by the federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. 201(b).


[[Page 74011]]


    Example 1 to paragraph (c): A government contractor who 
specializes in information technology software has offered an 
employee of the Department of Energy's information technology 
acquisition division a $15 gift card to a local restaurant if the 
employee will allow the vendor to present a demonstration of the 
contractor's products at the division's staff meeting. Even though 
the gift card is less than $20, the employee may not accept the gift 
under 5 CFR 2635.204(a) because it is conditional upon official 
action by the employee. Pursuant to Sec. Sec.  2635.202(c) and 
2635.205(a), notwithstanding any exception to the rule, an employee 
may not accept a gift in return for being influenced in the 
performance of an official act.


Sec.  2635.203  Definitions.

    For purposes of this subpart, the following definitions apply:
    (a) Agency has the meaning set forth in Sec.  2635.102(a). However, 
for purposes of this subpart, an executive department, as defined in 5 
U.S.C. 101, may, by supplemental agency regulation, designate as a 
separate agency any component of that department which the department 
determines exercises distinct and separate functions.
    (b) Gift includes any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, 
hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value. It 
includes services as well as gifts of training, transportation, local 
travel, lodgings and meals, whether provided in-kind, by purchase of a 
ticket, payment in advance, or reimbursement after the expense has been 
incurred. The term excludes the following:
    (1) Modest items of food and refreshments, such as soft drinks, 
coffee and donuts, offered other than as part of a meal;

    Example 1 to paragraph (b)(1): A Department of Defense employee 
is invited to a defense contractor's holiday party. Alcoholic 
beverages are served at the party. Attendance at the party would be 
a gift to the employee because alcoholic beverages are not modest 
items of food or refreshment.

    (2) Greeting cards and items with little intrinsic value, such as 
plaques, certificates, and trophies, which are intended primarily for 
presentation;

    Example 1 to paragraph (b)(2): After giving a speech at the 
facility of a pharmaceutical company, a Government employee is 
presented with a glass paperweight in the shape of a pill capsule 
with the name of the company's latest drug and the date of the 
speech imprinted on the side. The employee may accept the 
paperweight because it is an item with little intrinsic value which 
is intended primarily for presentation.
    Example 2 to paragraph (b)(2): After participating in a panel 
discussion hosted by an international media company, a Government 
employee is presented with an inexpensive portable music player 
emblazoned with the media company's logo. The portable music player 
has a market value of $25. The employee may not accept the portable 
music player as it has a significant independent use as a music 
player rather than being intended primarily for presentation.
    Example 3 to paragraph (b)(2): After giving a speech at a 
conference held by a national association for miners, a Department 
of Commerce employee is presented with a block of granite that is 
engraved with the association's logo, a picture of the Appalachian 
Mountains, the date of the speech and the employee's name. The 
employee may accept this item because it is similar to a plaque, is 
designed primarily for presentation, and has little intrinsic value.

    (3) Loans from banks and other financial institutions on terms 
generally available to the public;
    (4) Opportunities and benefits, including favorable rates and 
commercial discounts, available to the public or to a class consisting 
of all Government employees or all uniformed military personnel, 
whether or not restricted on the basis of geographic considerations;
    (5) Rewards and prizes given to competitors in contests or events, 
including random drawings, open to the public unless the employee's 
entry into the contest or event is required as part of the employee's 
official duties;

    Example 1 to paragraph (b)(5): A Government employee is 
attending a free trade show on official time. The trade show is held 
in a public shopping area adjacent to the employee's office 
building. The employee voluntarily enters a drawing at an individual 
vendor's booth which is open to the public. She fills in an entry 
form on the vendor's display table and drops it into the contest 
box. The employee may accept the resulting prize because entry into 
the contest was not required by or related to her official duties.
    Example 2 to paragraph (b)(5): All attendees at a conference, 
which is not open to the public, are entered in a drawing for a 
weekend getaway to Bermuda as a result of being registered for the 
conference. A Government employee who attends the conference in his 
official capacity at the Government's expense cannot accept the 
weekend getaway, which is a ``door prize,'' because his entry in the 
contest was a result of registering for the conference as part of 
his official duties. Similarly, the employee could not accept the 
prize if entry into the drawing were restricted to those conference 
attendees who completed a conference evaluation, even if completing 
the evaluation was optional, because completing the evaluation was 
part of the conference and, therefore, incident to the performance 
of his official duties.

    (6) Pension and other benefits resulting from continued 
participation in an employee welfare and benefits plan maintained by a 
current or former employer;
    (7) Anything which is paid for by the Government or secured by the 
Government under Government contract;

    Example 1 to paragraph (b)(7): An employee at the Occupational 
Safety and Health Administration is assigned to travel away from her 
duty station to conduct an investigation of a collapse at a 
construction site. The employee's agency is paying for her travel 
expenses, including her airfare. The employee may accept and retain 
travel promotional items, such as frequent flyer miles, received as 
a result of her official travel, if done in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 
5702, note, and 41 CFR part 301-53.

    (8) Free attendance to an event provided by the sponsor of the 
event to:
    (i) An employee who is assigned to present information on behalf of 
the agency at the event on any day when the employee is presenting;
    (ii) An employee whose presence on any day of the event is deemed 
to be essential by the agency to the presenting employee's 
participation in the event, provided that the employee is accompanying 
the presenting employee; and
    (iii) The spouse or one other guest of the presenting employee on 
any day when the employee is presenting, provided that others in 
attendance will generally be accompanied by a spouse or other guest, 
the offer of free attendance for the spouse or other guest is 
unsolicited, and the agency designee has authorized the presenting 
employee orally or in writing to accept.

    Example 1 to paragraph (b)(8): An employee of the Department of 
the Treasury is assigned to participate in a panel discussion of 
economic issues as part of a one-day conference may accept the 
sponsor's waiver of the conference fee. Under the separate authority 
of Sec.  2635.204(a), the employee may accept a token of 
appreciation for her speech having a market value of $20 or less.
    Example 2 to paragraph (b)(8): An employee of the Securities and 
Exchange Commission is assigned to present the agency's views at a 
roundtable discussion of an ongoing working group. The employee may 
accept free attendance to the meeting under Sec.  2635.203(b)(8) 
because the employee has been assigned to present information at the 
meeting on behalf of the agency. If it is determined by the agency 
that it is essential that another employee accompany the presenting 
employee to the roundtable discussion, the accompanying employee may 
also accept free attendance to the meeting under Sec.  
2635.203(b)(8)(ii).
    Example 3 to paragraph (b)(8): An employee of the United States 
Trade and Development Agency is invited to attend a cocktail party 
hosted by a prohibited source. The employee believes that while at 
the event he will have an opportunity to discuss official matters 
with other attendees. Although the employee may voluntarily

[[Page 74012]]

discuss official matters with other attendees, the employee has not 
been assigned to present information on behalf of the agency. The 
employee may not accept free attendance to the event under Sec.  
2635.203(b)(8).

    (9) Any gift accepted by the Government under specific statutory 
authority, including:
    (i) Travel, subsistence, and related expenses accepted by an agency 
under the authority of 31 U.S.C. 1353 in connection with an employee's 
attendance at a meeting or similar function relating to the employee's 
official duties which take place away from the employee's duty station, 
provided that the agency's acceptance is in accordance with the 
implementing regulations at 41 CFR chapter 304; and
    (ii) Other gifts provided in-kind which have been accepted by an 
agency under its agency gift acceptance statute; and
    (10) Anything for which market value is paid by the employee.
    (c) Market value means the cost that a member of the general public 
would reasonably expect to incur to purchase the gift. An employee who 
cannot ascertain the market value of a gift may estimate its market 
value by reference to the retail cost of similar items of like quality. 
The market value of a gift of a ticket entitling the holder to food, 
refreshments, entertainment, or any other benefit is deemed to be the 
face value of the ticket.

    Example 1 to paragraph (c): An employee who has been given a 
watch inscribed with the corporate logo of a prohibited source may 
determine its market value based on her observation that a 
comparable watch, not inscribed with a logo, generally sells for 
about $50.
    Example 2 to paragraph (c): During an official visit to a 
factory operated by a well-known athletic footwear manufacturer, an 
employee of the Department of Labor is offered a commemorative pair 
of athletic shoes manufactured at the factory. Although the cost 
incurred by the donor to manufacture the shoes was $17, the market 
value of the shoes would be the $100 that the employee would have to 
pay for the shoes on the open market.
    Example 3 to paragraph (c): A prohibited source has offered a 
Government employee a ticket to a charitable event consisting of a 
cocktail reception to be followed by an evening of chamber music. 
Even though the food, refreshments, and entertainment provided at 
the event may be worth only $20, the market value of the ticket is 
its $250 face value.
    Example 4 to paragraph (c): A company offers an employee of the 
Federal Communication Commission (FCC) free attendance for two to a 
private skybox at a ballpark to watch a major league baseball game. 
The skybox is leased annually by the company, which has business 
pending before the FCC. To determine the market value of the 
tickets, the employee must add the market value of two of the most 
expensive publicly available tickets to the game and the market 
value of any food, parking or other tangible benefits provided in 
connection with the gift of attendance.
    Example 5 to paragraph (c): An employee of the Department of 
Agriculture is invited to a reception held by a prohibited source. 
There is no entrance fee to the reception event or to the venue. To 
determine the market value of the gift, the employee must add the 
market value of any entertainment, food, beverages, or other 
tangible benefit provided to attendees in connection with the 
reception, but need not consider the cost incurred by the sponsor to 
rent or maintain the venue where the event is held. The employee may 
rely on a per-person cost estimate provided by the sponsor of the 
event, unless the employee or an agency designee has determined that 
a reasonable person would find that the estimate is clearly 
implausible.

    (d) Prohibited source means any person who:
    (1) Is seeking official action by the employee's agency;
    (2) Does business or seeks to do business with the employee's 
agency;
    (3) Conducts activities regulated by the employee's agency;
    (4) Has interests that may be substantially affected by performance 
or nonperformance of the employee's official duties; or
    (5) Is an organization a majority of whose members are described in 
paragraphs (d)(1) through (4) of this section.
    (e) Given because of the employee's official position. A gift is 
given because of the employee's official position if the gift is from a 
person other than an employee and would not have been given had the 
employee not held the status, authority, or duties associated with the 
employee's Federal position.

    Note to paragraph (e): Gifts between employees are subject to 
the limitations set forth in subpart C of this part.

    Example 1 to paragraph (e): Where free season tickets are 
offered by an opera guild to all members of the Cabinet, the gift is 
offered because of their official positions.
    Example 2 to paragraph (e): Employees at a regional office of 
the Department of Justice (DOJ) work in Government-leased space at a 
private office building, along with various private business 
tenants. A major fire in the building during normal office hours 
causes a traumatic experience for all occupants of the building in 
making their escape, and it is the subject of widespread news 
coverage. A corporate hotel chain, which does not meet the 
definition of a prohibited source for DOJ, seizes the moment and 
announces that it will give a free night's lodging to all building 
occupants and their families, as a public goodwill gesture. 
Employees of DOJ may accept, as this gift is not being given because 
of their Government positions. The donor's motivation for offering 
this gift is unrelated to the DOJ employees' status, authority, or 
duties associated with their Federal position, but instead is based 
on their mere presence in the building as occupants at the time of 
the fire.

    (f) Indirectly solicited or accepted. A gift which is solicited or 
accepted indirectly includes a gift:
    (1) Given with the employee's knowledge and acquiescence to the 
employee's parent, sibling, spouse, child, dependent relative, or a 
member of the employee's household because of that person's 
relationship to the employee; or
    (2) Given to any other person, including any charitable 
organization, on the basis of designation, recommendation, or other 
specification by the employee, except the employee has not indirectly 
solicited or accepted a gift by the raising of funds or other support 
for a charitable organization if done in accordance with Sec.  
2635.808.

    Example 1 to paragraph (f)(2): An employee who must decline a 
gift of a personal computer pursuant to this subpart may not suggest 
that the gift be given instead to one of five charitable 
organizations whose names are provided by the employee.

    (g) Free attendance includes waiver of all or part of the fee for 
an event or the provision of food, refreshments, entertainment, 
instruction or materials furnished to all attendees as an integral part 
of the event. It does not include travel expenses, lodgings, or 
entertainment collateral to the event. It does not include meals taken 
other than in a group setting with all other attendees, unless the 
employee is a presenter at the event and is invited to a separate meal 
for participating presenters that is hosted by the sponsor of the 
event. Where the offer of free attendance has been extended to an 
accompanying spouse or other guest, the market value of the gift of 
free attendance includes the market value of free attendance by both 
the employee and the spouse or other guest.


Sec.  2635.204  Exceptions to the prohibition on acceptance of certain 
gifts.

    Subject to the limitations in Sec.  2635.205, this section 
establishes exceptions to the prohibitions set forth in Sec.  
2635.202(a) and (b).
    (a) Gifts of $20 or less. An employee may accept unsolicited gifts 
having an aggregate market value of $20 or less per source per 
occasion, provided that the aggregate market value of individual gifts 
received from any one person under the authority of this paragraph does 
not exceed $50 in a calendar year. This exception does not apply to 
gifts of cash or of investment interests such as

[[Page 74013]]

stock, bonds, or certificates of deposit. Where the market value of a 
gift or the aggregate market value of gifts offered on any single 
occasion exceeds $20, the employee may not pay the excess value over 
$20 in order to accept that portion of the gift or those gifts worth 
$20. Where the aggregate value of tangible items offered on a single 
occasion exceeds $20, the employee may decline any distinct and 
separate item in order to accept those items aggregating $20 or less.

    Example 1 to paragraph (a): An employee of the Securities and 
Exchange Commission and his spouse have been invited by a 
representative of a regulated entity to a community theater 
production, tickets to which have a face value of $30 each. The 
aggregate market value of the gifts offered on this single occasion 
is $60, $40 more than the $20 amount that may be accepted for a 
single event or presentation. The employee may not accept the gift 
of the evening of entertainment. He and his spouse may attend the 
play only if he pays the full $60 value of the two tickets.
    Example 2 to paragraph (a): An employee of the National 
Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has been invited by an association of 
cartographers to speak about her agency's role in the evolution of 
missile technology. At the conclusion of her speech, the association 
presents the employee a framed map with a market value of $18 and a 
ceramic mug that has a market value of $15. The employee may accept 
the map or the mug, but not both, because the aggregate value of 
these two tangible items exceeds $20.
    Example 3 to paragraph (a): On four occasions during the 
calendar year, an employee of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) was 
given gifts worth $10 each by four employees of a corporation that 
is a DLA contractor. For purposes of applying the yearly $50 
limitation on gifts of $20 or less from any one person, the four 
gifts must be aggregated because a person is defined at Sec.  
2635.102(k) to mean not only the corporate entity, but its officers 
and employees as well. However, for purposes of applying the $50 
aggregate limitation, the employee would not have to include the 
value of a birthday present received from his cousin, who is 
employed by the same corporation, if he can accept the birthday 
present under the exception at Sec.  2635.204(b) for gifts based on 
a personal relationship.
    Example 4 to paragraph (a): Under the authority of 31 U.S.C. 
1353 for agencies to accept payments from non-Federal sources in 
connection with attendance at certain meetings or similar functions, 
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accepted an 
association's gift of travel expenses and conference fees for an 
employee to attend a conference on the long-term effect of radon 
exposure. While at the conference, the employee may accept a gift of 
$20 or less from the association or from another person attending 
the conference even though it was not approved in advance by the 
EPA. Although 31 U.S.C. 1353 is the authority under which the EPA 
accepted the gift to the agency of travel expenses and conference 
fees, a gift of $20 or less accepted under Sec.  2635.204(a) is a 
gift to the employee rather than to her employing agency.
    Example 5 to paragraph (a): During off-duty time, an employee of 
the Department of Defense (DoD) attends a trade show involving 
companies that are DoD contractors. He is offered software worth $15 
at X Company's booth, a calendar worth $12 at Y Company's booth, and 
a deli lunch worth $8 from Z Company. The employee may accept all 
three of these items because they do not exceed $20 per source, even 
though they total more than $20 at this single occasion.
    Example 6 to paragraph (a): An employee of the Department of 
Defense (DoD) is being promoted to a higher level position in 
another DoD office. Six individuals, each employed by a different 
defense contractor, who have worked with the DoD employee over the 
years, decide to act in concert to pool their resources to buy her a 
nicer gift than each could buy her separately. Each defense 
contractor employee contributes $20 to buy a desk clock for the DoD 
employee that has a market value of $120. Although each of the 
contributions does not exceed the $20 limit, the employee may not 
accept the $120 gift because it is a single gift that has a market 
value in excess of $20.
    Example 7 to paragraph (a): During a holiday party, an employee 
of the Department of State is given a $15 store gift card to a 
national coffee chain by an agency contractor. The employee may 
accept the card as the market value is less than $20. The employee 
could not, however, accept a gift card that is issued by a credit 
card company or other financial institution, because such a card is 
equivalent to a gift of cash.

    (b) Gifts based on a personal relationship. An employee may accept 
a gift given by an individual under circumstances which make it clear 
that the gift is motivated by a family relationship or personal 
friendship rather than the position of the employee. Relevant factors 
in making such a determination include the history and nature of the 
relationship and whether the family member or friend personally pays 
for the gift.

    Example 1 to paragraph (b): An employee of the Federal Deposit 
Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has been dating an accountant employed 
by a member bank. As part of its ``Work-Life Balance'' program, the 
bank has given each employee in the accountant's division two 
tickets to a professional basketball game and has urged each to 
invite a family member or friend to share the evening of 
entertainment. Under the circumstances, the FDIC employee may accept 
the invitation to attend the game. Even though the tickets were 
initially purchased by the member bank, they were given without 
reservation to the accountant to use as she wished, and her 
invitation to the employee was motivated by their personal 
friendship.
    Example 2 to paragraph (b): Three partners in a law firm that 
handles corporate mergers have invited an employee of the Federal 
Trade Commission to join them in a golf tournament at a private club 
at the firm's expense. The entry fee is $500 per foursome. The 
employee cannot accept the gift of one-quarter of the entry fee even 
though he and the three partners have developed an amicable 
relationship as a result of the firm's dealings with the FTC. As 
evidenced in part by the fact that the fees are to be paid by the 
firm, it is not a personal friendship but a business relationship 
that is the motivation behind the partners' gift.
    Example 3 to paragraph (b): A Peace Corps employee enjoys using 
a social media site on the internet in his personal capacity outside 
of work. He has used the site to keep in touch with friends, 
neighbors, coworkers, professional contacts, and other individuals 
he has met over the years through both work and personal activities. 
One of these individuals works for a contractor that provides 
language services to the Peace Corps. The employee was acting in his 
official capacity when he met the individual at a meeting to discuss 
a matter related to the contract between their respective employers. 
Thereafter, the two communicated occasionally regarding contract 
matters. They later also granted one another access to join their 
social media networks through their respective social media 
accounts. However, they did not communicate further in their 
personal capacities, carry on extensive personal interactions, or 
meet socially outside of work. One day, the individual, whose 
employer continues to serve as a Peace Corps contractor, contacts 
the employee to offer him a pair of concert tickets worth $30 
apiece. Although the employee and the individual are connected 
through social media, the circumstances do not demonstrate that the 
gift was clearly motivated by a personal relationship, rather than 
the position of the employee, and therefore the employee may not 
accept the gift pursuant to Sec.  2635.204(b).

    (c) Discounts and similar benefits. In addition to those 
opportunities and benefits excluded from the definition of a gift by 
Sec.  2635.203(b)(4), an employee may accept:
    (1) A reduction or waiver of the fees for membership or other fees 
for participation in organization activities offered to all Government 
employees or all uniformed military personnel by professional 
organizations if the only restrictions on membership relate to 
professional qualifications; and
    (2) Opportunities and benefits, including favorable rates, 
commercial discounts, and free attendance or participation not 
precluded by paragraph (c)(3) of this section:
    (i) Offered to members of a group or class in which membership is 
unrelated to Government employment;
    (ii) Offered to members of an organization, such as an employees' 
association or agency credit union, in which membership is related to 
Government employment if the same

[[Page 74014]]

offer is broadly available to large segments of the public through 
organizations of similar size; or
    (iii) Offered by a person who is not a prohibited source to any 
group or class that is not defined in a manner that specifically 
discriminates among Government employees on the basis of type of 
official responsibility or on a basis that favors those of higher rank 
or rate of pay.

    Example 1 to paragraph (c)(2): A computer company offers a 
discount on the purchase of computer equipment to all public and 
private sector computer procurement officials who work in 
organizations with over 300 employees. An employee who works as the 
computer procurement official for a Government agency could not 
accept the discount to purchase the personal computer under the 
exception in Sec.  2635.204(c)(2)(i). Her membership in the group to 
which the discount is offered is related to Government employment 
because her membership is based on her status as a procurement 
official with the Government.
    Example 2 to paragraph (c)(2): An employee of the Consumer 
Product Safety Commission (CPSC) may accept a discount of $50 on a 
microwave oven offered by the manufacturer to all members of the 
CPSC employees' association. Even though the CPSC is currently 
conducting studies on the safety of microwave ovens, the $50 
discount is a standard offer that the manufacturer has made broadly 
available through a number of employee associations and similar 
organizations to large segments of the public.
    Example 3 to paragraph (c)(2): An Assistant Secretary may not 
accept a local country club's offer of membership to all members of 
Department Secretariats which includes a waiver of its $5,000 
membership initiation fee. Even though the country club is not a 
prohibited source, the offer discriminates in favor of higher 
ranking officials.

    (3) An employee may not accept for personal use any benefit to 
which the Government is entitled as the result of an expenditure of 
Government funds, unless authorized by statute or regulation (e.g., 5 
U.S.C. 5702, note, regarding frequent flyer miles).

    Example 1 to paragraph (c)(3): The administrative officer for a 
field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has 
signed an order to purchase 50 boxes of photocopy paper from a 
supplier whose literature advertises that it will give a free 
briefcase to anyone who purchases 50 or more boxes. Because the 
paper was purchased with ICE funds, the administrative officer 
cannot keep the briefcase which, if claimed and received, is 
Government property.

    (d) Awards and honorary degrees.--(1) Awards. An employee may 
accept a bona fide award for meritorious public service or achievement 
and any item incident to the award, provided that:
    (i) The award and any item incident to the award are not from a 
person who has interests that may be substantially affected by the 
performance or nonperformance of the employee's official duties, or 
from an association or other organization if a majority of its members 
have such interests; and
    (ii) If the award or any item incident to the award is in the form 
of cash or an investment interest, or if the aggregate value of the 
award and any item incident to the award, other than free attendance to 
the event provided to the employee and to members of the employee's 
family by the sponsor of the event, exceeds $200, the agency ethics 
official has made a written determination that the award is made as 
part of an established program of recognition.

    Example 1 to paragraph (d)(1): Based on a written determination 
by an agency ethics official that the prize meets the criteria set 
forth in Sec.  2635.204(d)(2), an employee of the National 
Institutes of Health may accept the Nobel Prize for Medicine, 
including the cash award which accompanies the prize, even though 
the prize was conferred on the basis of laboratory work performed at 
NIH.
    Example 2 to paragraph (d)(1): A defense contractor, ABC 
Systems, has an annual award program for the outstanding public 
employee of the year. The award includes a cash payment of $1,000. 
The award program is wholly funded to ensure its continuation on a 
regular basis for the next twenty years and selection of award 
recipients is made pursuant to written standards. An employee of the 
Department of the Air Force, who has duties that include overseeing 
contract performance by ABC Systems, is selected to receive the 
award. The employee may not accept the cash award because ABC 
Systems has interests that may be substantially affected by the 
performance or nonperformance of the employee's official duties.
    Example 3 to paragraph (d)(1): An ambassador selected by a 
nonprofit organization as a recipient of its annual award for 
distinguished service in the interest of world peace may, together 
with his wife and children, attend the awards ceremony dinner and 
accept a crystal bowl worth $200 presented during the ceremony. 
However, where the organization has also offered airline tickets for 
the ambassador and his family to travel to the city where the awards 
ceremony is to be held, the aggregate value of the tickets and the 
crystal bowl exceeds $200, and he may accept only upon a written 
determination by the agency ethics official that the award is made 
as part of an established program of recognition.

    (2) Established program of recognition. An award and an item 
incident to the award are made pursuant to an established program of 
recognition if:
    (i) Awards have been made on a regular basis or, if the program is 
new, there is a reasonable basis for concluding that awards will be 
made on a regular basis based on funding or funding commitments; and
    (ii) Selection of award recipients is made pursuant to written 
standards.
    (3) Honorary degrees. An employee may accept an honorary degree 
from an institution of higher education, as defined at 20 U.S.C. 1001, 
or from a similar foreign institution of higher education, based on a 
written determination by an agency ethics official that the timing of 
the award of the degree would not cause a reasonable person to question 
the employee's impartiality in a matter affecting the institution.

    Note to paragraph (d)(3): When the honorary degree is offered by 
a foreign institution of higher education, the agency may need to 
make a separate determination as to whether the institution of 
higher education is a foreign government for purposes of the 
Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution (U.S. Const., art. I, 
Sec.  9, cl. 8) which forbids employees from accepting emoluments, 
presents, offices, or titles from foreign governments, without the 
consent of Congress. The Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, 5 U.S.C. 
7342, however, may permit the acceptance of honorary degrees in some 
circumstances.

    Example 1 to paragraph (d)(3): A well-known university located 
in the United States wishes to give an honorary degree to the 
Secretary of Labor. The Secretary may accept the honorary degree 
only if an agency ethics official determines in writing that the 
timing of the award of the degree would not cause a reasonable 
person to question the Secretary's impartiality in a matter 
affecting the university.

    (4) Presentation events. An employee who may accept an award or 
honorary degree pursuant to paragraphs (d)(1) or (3) of this section 
may also accept free attendance to the event provided to the employee 
and to members of the employee's family by the sponsor of an event. In 
addition, the employee may also accept unsolicited offers of travel to 
and from the event provided to the employee and to members of the 
employee's family by the sponsor of the event. Travel expenses accepted 
under this paragraph must be added to the value of the award for 
purposes of determining whether the aggregate value of the award 
exceeds $200.
    (e) Gifts based on outside business or employment relationships. An 
employee may accept meals, lodgings, transportation and other benefits:
    (1) Resulting from the business or employment activities of an 
employee's spouse when it is clear that such benefits have not been 
offered or enhanced because of the employee's official position;


[[Page 74015]]


    Example 1 to paragraph (e)(1): A Department of Agriculture 
employee whose husband is a computer programmer employed by a 
Department of Agriculture contractor may attend the company's annual 
retreat for all of its employees and their families held at a resort 
facility. However, under Sec.  2635.502, the employee may be 
disqualified from performing official duties affecting her husband's 
employer.
    Example 2 to paragraph (e)(1): Where the spouses of other 
clerical personnel have not been invited, an employee of the Defense 
Contract Audit Agency whose wife is a clerical worker at a defense 
contractor may not attend the contractor's annual retreat in Hawaii 
for corporate officers and members of the board of directors, even 
though his wife received a special invitation for herself and her 
spouse.

    (2) Resulting from the employee's outside business or employment 
activities when it is clear that such benefits are based on the outside 
business or employment activities and have not been offered or enhanced 
because of the employee's official status;

    Example 1 to paragraph (e)(2): The members of an Army Corps of 
Engineers environmental advisory committee that meets six times per 
year are special Government employees. A member who has a consulting 
business may accept an invitation to a $50 dinner from her corporate 
client, an Army construction contractor, unless, for example, the 
invitation was extended in order to discuss the activities of the 
advisory committee.

    (3) Customarily provided by a prospective employer in connection 
with bona fide employment discussions. If the prospective employer has 
interests that could be affected by performance or nonperformance of 
the employee's duties, acceptance is permitted only if the employee 
first has complied with the disqualification requirements of subpart F 
of this part applicable when seeking employment; or

    Example 1 to paragraph (e)(3): An employee of the Federal 
Communications Commission with responsibility for drafting 
regulations affecting all cable television companies wishes to apply 
for a job opening with a cable television holding company. Once she 
has properly disqualified herself from further work on the 
regulations as required by subpart F of this part, she may enter 
into employment discussions with the company and may accept the 
company's offer to pay for her airfare, hotel, and meals in 
connection with an interview trip.

    (4) Provided by a former employer to attend a reception or similar 
event when other former employees have been invited to attend, the 
invitation and benefits are based on the former employment 
relationship, and it is clear that such benefits have not been offered 
or enhanced because of the employee's official position.

    Example 1 to paragraph (e)(4): An employee of the Department of 
the Army is invited by her former employer, an Army contractor, to 
attend its annual holiday dinner party. The former employer 
traditionally invites both its current and former employees to the 
holiday dinner regardless of their current employment activities. 
Under these circumstances, the employee may attend the dinner 
because the dinner invitation is a result of the employee's former 
outside employment activities, other former employees have been 
asked to attend, and the gift is not offered because of the 
employee's official position.

    (5) For purposes of paragraphs (e)(1) through (4) of this section, 
``employment'' means any form of non-Federal employment or business 
relationship involving the provision of personal services.
    (f) Gifts in connection with political activities permitted by the 
Hatch Act Reform Amendments. An employee who, in accordance with the 
Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993, at 5 U.S.C. 7323, may take an 
active part in political management or in political campaigns, may 
accept meals, lodgings, transportation, and other benefits, including 
free attendance at events, for the employee and an accompanying spouse 
or other guests, when provided, in connection with such active 
participation, by a political organization described in 26 U.S.C. 
527(e). Any other employee, such as a security officer, whose official 
duties require him or her to accompany an employee to a political 
event, may accept meals, free attendance, and entertainment provided at 
the event by such an organization.

    Example 1 to paragraph (f): The Secretary of the Department of 
Health and Human Services may accept an airline ticket and hotel 
accommodations furnished by the campaign committee of a candidate 
for the United States Senate in order to give a speech in support of 
the candidate.

    (g) Gifts of free attendance at widely attended gatherings. (1) 
When authorized in writing by the agency designee pursuant to paragraph 
(g)(3) of this section, an employee may accept an unsolicited gift of 
free attendance at all or appropriate parts of a widely attended 
gathering. For an employee who is subject to a leave system, attendance 
at the event will be on the employee's own time or, if authorized by 
the employee's agency, on excused absence pursuant to applicable 
guidelines for granting such absence, or otherwise without charge to 
the employee's leave account.
    (2) Widely attended gatherings. A gathering is widely attended if 
it is expected that a large number of persons will attend, that persons 
with a diversity of views or interests will be present, for example, if 
it is open to members from throughout the interested industry or 
profession or if those in attendance represent a range of persons 
interested in a given matter, and that there will be an opportunity to 
exchange ideas and views among invited persons.
    (3) Written authorization by the agency designee. The agency 
designee may authorize an employee or employees to accept a gift of 
free attendance at all or appropriate parts of a widely attended 
gathering only if the agency designee issues a written determination 
after finding that:
    (i) The event is a widely attended gathering, as set forth in 
paragraph (g)(2) of this section;
    (ii) The employee's attendance at the event is in the agency's 
interest because it will further agency programs and operations;
    (iii) The agency's interest in the employee's attendance outweighs 
the concern that the employee may be, or may appear to be, improperly 
influenced in the performance of official duties; and
    (iv) If a person other than the sponsor of the event invites or 
designates the employee as the recipient of the gift of free attendance 
and bears the cost of that gift, the event is expected to be attended 
by more than 100 persons and the value of the gift of free attendance 
does not exceed $375.
    (4) Determination of agency interest. In determining whether the 
agency's interest in the employee's attendance outweighs the concern 
that the employee may be, or may appear to be, improperly influenced in 
the performance of official duties, the agency designee may consider 
relevant factors including:
    (i) The importance of the event to the agency;
    (ii) The nature and sensitivity of any pending matter affecting the 
interests of the person who extended the invitation and the 
significance of the employee's role in any such matter;
    (iii) The purpose of the event;
    (iv) The identity of other expected participants;
    (v) Whether acceptance would reasonably create the appearance that 
the donor is receiving preferential treatment;
    (vi) Whether the Government is also providing persons with views or 
interests that differ from those of the donor with similar access to 
the Government; and
    (vii) The market value of the gift of free attendance.
    (5) Cost provided by person other than the sponsor of the event. 
The cost of the employee's attendance will be

[[Page 74016]]

considered to be provided by a person other than the sponsor of the 
event where such person designates the employee to be invited and bears 
the cost of the employee's attendance through a contribution or other 
payment intended to facilitate the employee's attendance. Payment of 
dues or a similar assessment to a sponsoring organization does not 
constitute a payment intended to facilitate a particular employee's 
attendance.
    (6) Accompanying spouse or other guest. When others in attendance 
will generally be accompanied by a spouse or other guest, and where the 
invitation is from the same person who has invited the employee, the 
agency designee may authorize an employee to accept an unsolicited 
invitation of free attendance to an accompanying spouse or one other 
accompanying guest to participate in all or a portion of the event at 
which the employee's free attendance is permitted under paragraph 
(g)(1) this section. The authorization required by this paragraph must 
be provided in writing.

    Example 1 to paragraph (g): An aerospace industry association 
that is a prohibited source sponsors an industry-wide, two-day 
seminar for which it charges a fee of $800 and anticipates 
attendance of approximately 400. An Air Force contractor pays $4,000 
to the association so that the association can extend free 
invitations to five Air Force officials designated by the 
contractor. The Air Force officials may not accept the gifts of free 
attendance because (a) the contractor, rather than the association, 
provided the cost of their attendance; (b) the contractor designated 
the specific employees to receive the gift of free attendance; and 
(c) the value of the gift exceeds $375 per employee.
    Example 2 to paragraph (g): An aerospace industry association 
that is a prohibited source sponsors an industry-wide, two-day 
seminar for which it charges a fee of $25 and anticipates attendance 
of approximately 50. An Air Force contractor pays $125 to the 
association so that the association can extend free invitations to 
five Air Force officials designated by the contractor. The Air Force 
officials may not accept the gifts of free attendance because (a) 
the contractor, rather than the association, provided the cost of 
their attendance; (b) the contractor designated the specific 
employees to receive the gift of free attendance; and (c) the event 
was not expected to be attended by more than 100 persons.
    Example 3 to paragraph (g): An aerospace industry association 
that is a prohibited source sponsors an industry-wide, two-day 
seminar for which it charges a fee of $800 and anticipates 
attendance of approximately 400. An Air Force contractor pays $4,000 
in order that the association might invite any five Federal 
employees. An Air Force official to whom the sponsoring association, 
rather than the contractor, extended one of the five invitations 
could attend if the employee's participation were determined to be 
in the interest of the agency and he received a written 
authorization.
    Example 4 to paragraph (g): An employee of the Department of 
Transportation is invited by a news organization to an annual press 
dinner sponsored by an association of press organizations. Tickets 
for the event cost $375 per person and attendance is limited to 400 
representatives of press organizations and their guests. If the 
employee's attendance is determined to be in the interest of the 
agency, she may accept the invitation from the news organization 
because more than 100 persons will attend and the cost of the ticket 
does not exceed $375. However, if the invitation were extended to 
the employee and an accompanying guest, the employee's guest could 
not be authorized to attend for free because the market value of the 
gift of free attendance would exceed $375.
    Example 5 to paragraph (g): An employee of the Department of 
Energy (DOE) and his spouse have been invited by a major utility 
executive to a small dinner party. A few other officials of the 
utility and their spouses or other guests are also invited, as is a 
representative of a consumer group concerned with utility rates and 
her spouse. The DOE official believes the dinner party will provide 
him an opportunity to socialize with and get to know those in 
attendance. The employee may not accept the free invitation under 
this exception, even if his attendance could be determined to be in 
the interest of the agency. The small dinner party is not a widely 
attended gathering. Nor could the employee be authorized to accept 
even if the event were instead a corporate banquet to which forty 
company officials and their spouses or other guests were invited. In 
this second case, notwithstanding the larger number of persons 
expected (as opposed to the small dinner party just noted) and 
despite the presence of the consumer group representative and her 
husband who are not officials of the utility, those in attendance 
would still not represent a diversity of views or interests. Thus, 
the company banquet would not qualify as a widely attended gathering 
under those circumstances either.
    Example 6 to paragraph (g): An Assistant U.S. Attorney is 
invited to attend a luncheon meeting of a local bar association to 
hear a distinguished judge lecture on cross-examining expert 
witnesses. Although members of the bar association are assessed a 
$15 fee for the meeting, the Assistant U.S. Attorney may accept the 
bar association's offer to attend for free, even without a 
determination of agency interest. The gift can be accepted under the 
$20 gift exception at Sec.  2635.204(a).
    Example 7 to paragraph (g): An employee of the Department of the 
Interior authorized to speak on the first day of a four-day 
conference on endangered species may accept the sponsor's waiver of 
the conference fee for the first day of the conference under Sec.  
2635.203(b)(8). If the conference is widely attended, the employee 
may be authorized to accept the sponsor's offer to waive the 
attendance fee for the remainder of the conference if the agency 
designee has made a written determination that attendance is in the 
agency's interest.
    Example 8 to paragraph (g): A military officer has been approved 
to attend a widely attended gathering, pursuant to paragraph (g) of 
this section, that will be held in the same city as the officer's 
duty station. The defense contractor sponsoring the event has 
offered to transport the officer in a limousine to the event. The 
officer may not accept the offer of transportation because the 
definition of ``free attendance'' set forth in Sec.  2635.203(g) 
excludes travel, and the market value of the transportation would 
exceed $20.

    (h) Social invitations. An employee may accept food, refreshments, 
and entertainment, not including travel or lodgings, for the employee 
and an accompanying spouse or other guests, at a social event attended 
by several persons if:
    (1) The invitation is unsolicited and is from a person who is not a 
prohibited source;
    (2) No fee is charged to any person in attendance; and
    (3) If either the sponsor of the event or the person extending the 
invitation to the employee is not an individual, the agency designee 
makes a written determination after finding that the employee's 
attendance would not cause a reasonable person to question the 
employee's integrity. See Sec.  2635.201(b).

    Example 1 to paragraph (h):  An employee of the White House 
Press Office has been invited to a social dinner for current and 
former White House Press Officers at the home of an individual who 
is not a prohibited source. The employee may attend even if she is 
being invited because of her official position.

    (i) Meals, refreshments, and entertainment in foreign areas. An 
employee assigned to duty in, or on official travel to, a foreign area 
as defined in 41 CFR 300-3.1 may accept unsolicited food, refreshments, 
or entertainment in the course of a breakfast, luncheon, dinner, or 
other meeting or event provided:
    (1) The market value in the foreign area of the food, refreshments 
or entertainment provided at the meeting or event, as converted to U.S. 
dollars, does not exceed the per diem rate for the foreign area 
specified in the U.S. Department of State's Maximum Per Diem Allowances 
for Foreign Areas, Per Diem Supplement Section 925 to the Standardized 
Regulations (GC-FA) available on the Internet at www.state.gov;
    (2) There is participation in the meeting or event by non-U.S. 
citizens or by representatives of foreign governments or other foreign 
entities;
    (3) Attendance at the meeting or event is part of the employee's 
official duties to obtain information, disseminate information, promote 
the export of U.S. goods and services, represent the United States, or 
otherwise further programs or

[[Page 74017]]

operations of the agency or the U.S. mission in the foreign area; and
    (4) The gift of meals, refreshments, or entertainment is from a 
person other than a foreign government as defined in 5 U.S.C. 
7342(a)(2).

    Example 1 to paragraph (i): A number of local business owners in 
a developing country are eager for a U.S. company to locate a 
manufacturing facility in their province. An official of the 
Overseas Private Investment Corporation may accompany the visiting 
vice president of the U.S. company to a dinner meeting hosted by the 
business owners at a province restaurant where the market value of 
the food and refreshments does not exceed the per diem rate for that 
country.

    (j) Gifts to the President or Vice President. Because of 
considerations relating to the conduct of their offices, including 
those of protocol and etiquette, the President or the Vice President 
may accept any gift on his or her own behalf or on behalf of any family 
member, provided that such acceptance does not violate Sec.  
2635.205(a) or (b), 18 U.S.C. 201(b) or 201(c)(3), or the Constitution 
of the United States.
    (k) Gifts authorized by supplemental agency regulation. An employee 
may accept any gift when acceptance of the gift is specifically 
authorized by a supplemental agency regulation issued with the 
concurrence of the Office of Government Ethics, pursuant to 5 CFR 
2635.105.
    (l) Gifts accepted under specific statutory authority. The 
prohibitions on acceptance of gifts from outside sources contained in 
this subpart do not apply to any item which a statute specifically 
authorizes an employee to accept. Gifts which may be accepted by an 
employee under the authority of specific statutes include, but are not 
limited to:
    (1) Free attendance, course or meeting materials, transportation, 
lodgings, food and refreshments or reimbursements therefor incident to 
training or meetings when accepted by the employee under the authority 
of 5 U.S.C. 4111 from an organization with tax-exempt status under 26 
U.S.C. 501(c)(3) or from a person to whom the prohibitions in 18 U.S.C. 
209 do not apply. The employee's acceptance must be approved by the 
agency in accordance with part 410 of this title; or
    (2) Gifts from a foreign government or international or 
multinational organization, or its representative, when accepted by the 
employee under the authority of the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, 
5 U.S.C. 7342. As a condition of acceptance, an employee must comply 
with requirements imposed by the agency's regulations or procedures 
implementing that Act.
    (m) Gifts of informational materials. (1) An employee may accept 
unsolicited gifts of informational materials when:
    (i) The informational materials are primarily provided for 
educational or instructive purposes, rather than entertainment; and
    (ii)(A) The aggregate market value of the informational materials 
is $100 or less; or
    (B) If the aggregate market value exceeds $100, an agency designee 
makes a written determination that acceptance would not be inconsistent 
with the standard set forth in Sec.  2635.201(b).
    (2) Informational materials. Informational materials are writings, 
recordings, documents, records, or other items intended primarily to 
communicate information, not including images intended primarily for 
display or decoration, provided that the information relates in whole 
or in part to the following categories:
    (i) The employee's official duties or position, profession, or 
field of study;
    (ii) A general subject matter area, industry, or economic sector 
affected by or involved in the programs and operations of the agency; 
or
    (iii) Another topic of interest to the agency or its mission.

    Example 1 to paragraph (m): An analyst at the Agricultural 
Research Service receives an edition of an agricultural research 
journal in the mail from a consortium of private farming operations 
concerned with soil toxicity. The journal edition has a market value 
of $75. The analyst may accept the gift.
    Example 2 to paragraph (m): An inspector at the Mine Safety and 
Health Administration receives a popular novel with a market value 
of $25 from a mine operator. Because the novel is primarily for 
entertainment purposes, the inspector may not accept the gift.


Sec.  2635.205  Limitations on use of exceptions.

    Notwithstanding any exception provided in this subpart, other than 
Sec.  2635.204(j), an employee may not:
    (a) Accept a gift in return for being influenced in the performance 
of an official act;
    (b) Use, or permit the use of, the employee's Government position, 
or any authority associated with public office, to solicit or coerce 
the offering of a gift;
    (c) Accept gifts from the same or different sources on a basis so 
frequent that a reasonable person would be led to believe the employee 
is using the employee's public office for private gain;

    Example 1 to paragraph (c): A purchasing agent for a Department 
of Veterans Affairs medical center routinely deals with 
representatives of pharmaceutical manufacturers who provide 
information about new company products. Because of his crowded 
calendar, the purchasing agent has offered to meet with manufacturer 
representatives during his lunch hours Tuesdays through Thursdays, 
and the representatives routinely arrive at the employee's office 
bringing a sandwich and a soft drink for the employee. Even though 
the market value of each of the lunches is less than $6 and the 
aggregate value from any one manufacturer does not exceed the $50 
aggregate limitation in Sec.  2635.204(a) on gifts of $20 or less, 
the practice of accepting even these modest gifts on a recurring 
basis is improper.

    (d) Accept a gift in violation of any statute. Relevant statutes 
applicable to all employees include, but are not limited to:
    (1) 18 U.S.C. 201(b), which prohibits a public official from, 
directly or indirectly, corruptly demanding, seeking, receiving, 
accepting, or agreeing to receive or accept anything of value 
personally or for any other person or entity in return for being 
influenced in the performance of an official act; being influenced to 
commit or aid in committing, or to collude in, or allow, any fraud, or 
make opportunity for the commission of any fraud, on the United States; 
or for being induced to do or omit to do any action in violation of his 
or her official duty. As used in 18 U.S.C. 201(b), the term ``public 
official'' is broadly construed and includes regular and special 
Government employees as well as all other Government officials; and
    (2) 18 U.S.C. 209, which prohibits an employee, other than a 
special Government employee, from receiving any salary or any 
contribution to or supplementation of salary from any source other than 
the United States as compensation for services as a Government 
employee. The statute contains several specific exceptions to this 
general prohibition, including an exception for contributions made from 
the treasury of a State, county, or municipality;
    (e) Accept a gift in violation of any Executive Order; or
    (f) Accept any gift when acceptance of the gift is specifically 
prohibited by a supplemental agency regulation issued with the 
concurrence of the Office of Government Ethics, pursuant to 5 CFR 
2635.105.


Sec.  2635.206  Proper disposition of prohibited gifts.

    (a) Unless a gift is accepted by an agency acting under specific 
statutory authority, an employee who has received a gift that cannot be 
accepted under this subpart must dispose of the

[[Page 74018]]

gift in accordance with the procedures set forth in this section. The 
employee must promptly complete the authorized disposition of the gift. 
The obligation to dispose of a gift that cannot be accepted under this 
subpart is independent of an agency's decision regarding corrective or 
disciplinary action under Sec.  2635.106.
    (1) Gifts of tangible items. The employee must promptly return any 
tangible item to the donor, or pay the donor its market value, or, in 
the case that the tangible item has a market value not in excess of 
$100, the employee may destroy the item. An employee who cannot 
ascertain the actual market value of an item may estimate its market 
value by reference to the retail cost of similar items of like quality. 
See Sec.  2635.203(c).

    Example 1 to paragraph (a)(1): A Department of Commerce employee 
received a $25 T-shirt from a prohibited source after providing 
training at a conference. Because the gift would not be permissible 
under an exception to this subpart, the employee must either return 
or destroy the T-shirt or promptly reimburse the donor $25. 
Destruction may be carried out by physical destruction or by 
permanently discarding the T-shirt by placing it in the trash.
    Example 2 to paragraph (a)(1): To avoid public embarrassment to 
the seminar sponsor, an employee of the National Park Service did 
not decline a barometer worth $200 given at the conclusion of his 
speech on Federal lands policy. To comply with this section, the 
employee must either promptly return the barometer or pay the donor 
the market value of the gift. Alternatively, the National Park 
Service may choose to accept the gift if permitted under specific 
statutory gift acceptance authority. The employee may not destroy 
this gift, as the market value is in excess of $100.
    (2) Gifts of perishable items. When it is not practical to return a 
tangible item in accordance with paragraph (a)(1) of this section 
because the item is perishable, the employee may, at the discretion of 
the employee's supervisor or the agency designee, give the item to an 
appropriate charity, share the item within the recipient's office, or 
destroy the item.

    Example 1 to paragraph (a)(2): With approval by the recipient's 
supervisor, a floral arrangement sent by a disability claimant to a 
helpful employee of the Social Security Administration may be placed 
in the office's reception area.

    (3) Gifts of intangibles. The employee must promptly reimburse the 
donor the market value for any entertainment, favor, service, benefit 
or other intangible. Subsequent reciprocation by the employee does not 
constitute reimbursement.

    Example 1 to paragraph (a)(3): A Department of Defense employee 
wishes to attend a charitable event to which he has been offered a 
$300 ticket by a prohibited source. Although his attendance is not 
in the interest of the agency under Sec.  2635.204(g), he may attend 
if he reimburses the donor the $300 face value of the ticket.

    (4) Gifts from foreign governments or international organizations. 
The employee must dispose of gifts from foreign governments or 
international organizations in accordance with 41 CFR part 102-42.
    (b) An agency may authorize disposition or return of gifts at 
Government expense. Employees may use penalty mail to forward 
reimbursements required or permitted by this section.
    (c) An employee who, on his or her own initiative, promptly 
complies with the requirements of this section will not be deemed to 
have improperly accepted an unsolicited gift. An employee who promptly 
consults his or her agency ethics official to determine whether 
acceptance of an unsolicited gift is proper and who, upon the advice of 
the ethics official, returns the gift or otherwise disposes of the gift 
in accordance with this section, will be considered to have complied 
with the requirements of this section on the employee's own initiative.
    (d) Employees are encouraged to record any actions they have taken 
to properly dispose of gifts that cannot be accepted under this 
subpart, such as by sending an electronic mail message to the 
appropriate agency ethics official or the employee's supervisor.

[FR Doc. 2015-29208 Filed 11-25-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 6345-02-P