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On September 13, 2011, the Office of Government Ethics proposed amendments to the regulation governing the acceptance of gifts by executive branch employees. The purpose of the amendments is to (a) implement the lobbyist gift ban already applicable, by Executive Order of the President, to most political appointees; and (b) impose limits on the use of gift exceptions by all executive branch employees (not merely political appointees).

The proposed rule would render existing exceptions to the gift restrictions inapplicable when the gift giver is both a prohibited source (e.g., a person doing business with the employee’s agency) and a lobbyist or lobbying organization, thus limiting the use of exceptions such as the $20 de minimis exception, the widely attended gathering exception, the social invitation exception, and the exception for meals, refreshments, and entertainment from private entities in a foreign area. Under the proposed amendments, viable exceptions to the gift restrictions would include: gifts based on a personal relationship, discounts and similar benefits, gifts resulting from a spouse’s business or employment, customary gifts provided by prospective employers, gifts authorized by an OGE-approved supplemental regulation, gifts accepted under specific statutory authority, awards and honorary degrees, gifts resulting from an employee’s outside business or employment, and for certain benefits in connection with permissible political activities.

Written comments must be received by OGE before November 14, 2011.