Sample request for approval to accept an invitation to attend a widely attended gathering

To:      Component Head or Deciding Official/Designee for Ethics Matters

From:  Deputy Designated Agency Ethics Official

Re:      Request for Approval for (employee’s name) to Accept an Invitation to a Widely Attended Gathering

I am writing to recommend your approval that (employee’s name) may accept an invitation to attend a widely attended gathering pursuant to 5 C.F.R. 2635.204(g)(2). The (organization name) is hosting a (event description, e.g., dinner/reception/etc.) for approximately (number) individuals at (location) on (date). The guests are (describe; e.g., professionals who address xxx issues/federal officials/the private sector/representatives of yyy industry/academia/Congressional representatives and staff). Tickets to attend this event are $___, and (organization name) has offered (number) ticket(s) to (employee’s name) to attend. (Note here if the event is a fundraiser.)

The standards of conduct generally prohibit an employee from accepting gifts, including entertainment, from persons having business with the Department, or gifts that are based on the employee’s official position. However, (employee’s name)’s attendance at this event would be permitted under an exception for widely attended gatherings. See 5 C.F.R. 2535.204. Given the diverse and numerous professionals who will be present at this event, this qualifies as a widely attended gathering.

Additional text needed if the sponsor or invitor is a prohibited source:
(If the sponsor/invitor is a prohibited source, describe the pending matters and/or connection that the organization has with the individual and/or employing component) Given that the (host/sponsor) is a prohibited source, you must determine that the agency’s interest in participation outweighs any concern that “acceptance may or may appear to improperly influence the employee” in the performance of his/her duties. 5 C.F.R. 2635.204(g)(3)(I). (Discuss balance of factors, including importance of the event, nature and sensitivity of pending matters, and the significance of the employee’s role in the pending matters.)

Given the other invitees who will be present at this event, including numerous professionals in xxx field, I believe it would be in the interests of the Department for (employee’s name) to have an opportunity to meet and speak with the other guests. Moreover, I recommend that you find that the interest in (employee’s name) attending this event outweighs any concern that his/her attendance would appear to improperly influence him/her in the performance of his/her official duties.

Additional text needed if the employee is attending an event that is a fundraiser:
Finally, (employee’s name) will be advised on the rules for passive attendance since this event is a fundraiser. Specifically, (employee’s name) will be informed that he/she cannot be introduced or formally recognized at this event, he/she may not sit on a dais or be part of a receiving line, and he/she may not make any speech or give remarks at this event.

Additional text needed if the employee is giving an official speech at the fundraiser:
Finally, we note that (employee’s name) will be giving a speech in his official capacity at the fundraiser. (Employee’s name) has been advised that he may not request or solicit donations or other support for the nonprofit organization. At most, (employee’s name) can acknowledge the achievements of organizations like the host that support xxxx objective. (Employee’s name), however, may not make any remarks that single out the host for particular praise. In addition, (employee’s name) may be given seating at this event that is appropriate to his status as a speaker. However, the (host organization) has been advised that it may not advertise or use (employee’s name)’s attendance as a means to draw attendees.

 

APPROVE                _____________

DISAPPROVE          _____________

_____________________                  ___________
Component Head’s Name                    Date
and Title

Additional Considerations:
1. This format may be used to accept an invitation to a conference, reception, or other social event.
2. Even if attendance at the event is free to all attendees, WAG approval is needed if the event costs more than $20, since the hosts incur costs for the event and those uncharged costs are a gift to the employee. If tickets are complimentary, the employee or DDAEO will need to contact the host to find out the estimated per person costs to identify the value of the gift of attendance. DDAEOs should assume that any event with open bar will cost more than $20 per person.
3. If several people are invited from one office to attend the same event, the office and DDAEO need to articulate a specific reason to support multiple people attending, rather than only one or two employees.
4. If the host of the event extended the invitation, the price of a ticket does not matter as long as it is within reason. If someone other than the host pays for the ticket, the employee may only accept a gift of tickets valued up to $350. If two tickets are offered by a non-sponsor, the employee may accept both only if the total value falls under the $350 limit. The employee may not pay the difference between $350 and the cost of the tickets(s).
5. When the host offers to pay the employee’s travel to the event (e.g., a conference, speaking event), the travel expenses, as well as the cost of meals provided, are accepted under 31 U.S.C. 1353. A DDAEO should not recommend acceptance of attendance at a social event affiliated with a substantive event under the WAG rules if travel to the event itself is accepted under Section 1353. For example, a dinner for all guests at a conference would be identified as an expense accepted under Section 1353 if the conference hosts charged a separate fee, apart from conference registration, for the dinner.
6. . As noted above, different rules apply if an employee is authorized to give an official speech at a fundraiser. In these circumstances, the supervisor, in advance, must specifically authorize the speech, which includes a determination that the event and audience are an appropriate forum for a speech. A speech must address a subject matter that relates to the employee’s official duties (e.g., a Department program or initiative), or an Administration policy on which the employee is authorized to speak. Since an employee may accept a meal that is offered in the course of an event at which he is speaking, specific WAG approval is not required when an official speech is given at a fundraiser. However, in explaining why the forum is appropriate for a speech, the description of the event and audience when seeking approval for a speech at a fundraiser is similar to the event description provided for a WAG.
7. If the employee is authorized to speak at a fundraiser, the DDAEO should review the draft announcement and invitation to ensure that the employee’s participation does not receive undue press or attention. For example, if there is more than one speaker, generally the announcement should not give greater attention to the employee rather than the other guests. Notification of the employee’s participation is distinct from efforts by the organization to use his presence as a draw for participation and money. DDAEOs may wish to consult with DEO on appropriate limitations on announcements.