An entity required to file reports with the Commission intends to sponsor and finance a reception and/or event during a 2004 political party's national convention. The reception and/or event is to occur before or after the official session of the National Convention. Some of the attendees of the event will be "public officials" as defined by the Act. The reception and/or event is not a reportable expenditure under New York State Election Law.
What constitutes a political event for purposes of the exemption contained in New York State Lobbying Law Section 1-c(j)(1)?
The Lobbying Act prohibits gifts from lobbyists or their clients to public officials in excess of $75. In this case, the party requesting the opinion has stipulated that the reception and/or event would be subject to the $75 gift ban, but takes the position that the exemption contained, under Section 1-c(j)(1) "complimentary attendance, including food and beverage, at charitable or political events; or complimentary attendance, including food and beverage at officially-related, widely attended events if offered by the sponsor" applies. To fall within the widely attended event exemption, the event must be officially related. In this case, the Commission sees no official relation between the public official's duties and attendance at an event or reception hosted by a private enterprise (associated with the National Convention). Clearly, the reception and/or event is not a charitable event, leaving the Commission to determine whether it would be considered a political event. That the expense is not reportable under the New York State Election Law is not dispositive in this case, expenditures or contributions reportable under the New York State Election Law Article 14 are separately excluded under Section 1-c(j)(6), therefore, the Legislature clearly intended the term political event to apply in those instances where the expenditure or contribution is not reportable under Article 14 of the Election Law. It is the opinion of the Commission that a political event be defined for purposes of Section 1-c(j)(1) as any event hosted by or financially benefiting a political party, an elected official, a candidate for public office, or a campaign committee of a candidate for public office.
If the reception and/or event in question, is hosted by or financially benefits a political party, an elected official, a candidate for public office, or a campaign committee of a candidate for public office, it would be considered a political event, and therefore, exempt from the gift ban.
APPROVED BY COMMISSION: AUGUST 3, 2004
CONCURRING: JOSEPH A. DUNN, CHAIR, BARTLEY F. LIVOLSI, VICE CHAIR; ALBERT S. CALLAN, MEMBER; STEWART C. WAGNER, MEMBER; PATRICK J. BULGARO, MEMBER, ANDREW G. CELLI, JR., MEMBER./S/