New Restrictions Proposed for Federal Employees Attending Events

SANDI CAIN, NEWS EDITOR
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New York, NY – A proposed rule from the Office of Government Ethics could have far-reaching implications for the trade show industry. American Business Media and other industry groups worry that the restrictions could be interpreted in a way that would curtail federal employee attendance at trade shows and other industry professional or educational events.

The proposed addition limits exceptions to the existing rule that prevents federal employees from accepting gifts from lobbyists valued at more than $20. The new version would extend the restrictions to include free registration, attendance, or food and drink at “widely attended gatherings.”

ABM today announced it will work with ASAE (The Center for Association Leadership), IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events), SISO (Society of Independent Show Organizers), the U.S. Travel Association and other industry groups to help ensure that the language is clarified in a way that avoids broader interpretation.

The full text of the letter from ABM’s President/CEO Clark Pettit is included below.

Reach Clark Pettit at (212) 661-6360 or  Clark@abmmail.com

 

Dear ABM Member,

I am reaching out to make you aware of a recent government affairs issue that could affect your event and tradeshow attendance, as well as ABM’s actions on your behalf.

WHAT HAPPENED?
New proposed ethics rules for federal employees are aimed at limiting attendance to lobbyist-sponsored social events, but there is concern that the rules could be more broadly interpreted and therefore limit federal employee attendance at other events, including industry trade shows.

To provide some background, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) currently bans federal employees from accepting gifts valued over $20 from lobbyists, with some exceptions. On September 13, 2011, OGE published a new proposed rule in the Federal Register that limits exceptions from the gift ban and restricts gifts to federal employees that take the form of free registration and attendance, food and drink, etc. at “widely-attended gatherings.” You can view OGE’s proposed new ruling here.

HOW COULD THIS AFFECT ABM MEMBERS?
The underlying legislation that the ruling applies to includes an exception for “media companies,” and OGE has stated in the proposal that the new restrictions are not meant to curtail federal attendance at educational and professional development events.  That said, ABM and other industry groups have significant concern that the intention or individual interpretation of this ruling could be broadly applied to restrict federal employees from attending any of a wide variety of trade shows and other industry events.

WHAT IS ABM DOING ABOUT THIS?
As this is a broad industry concern, ABM is coordinating directly with ASAE (The Center for Association Leadership), IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events), SISO (Society of Independent Show Organizers), the U.S. Travel Association and other industry groups to help ensure that the language is clarified in a way that avoids broader interpretation.

It has been agreed that ASAE is best positioned to spearhead this effort, so ABM is coordinating our input and support with them. We are also working directly with SISO Executive Director Lew Shomer, in line with the ABM/SISO strategic alliance.

ASAE has submitted comments on our collective behalves, to which ABM was a direct contributor and a signatory (you can view the comments here). Additionally, ASAE is requesting a conversation with OGE to discuss the issue further.

ABM will remain engaged by providing information about the potential negative impact on our members and by continuing to support lobbying efforts. We will report back as developments warrant.

If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact ABM’s Kate Patton.

 

Regards,

 

 

Clark Pettit

President & CEO

American Business Media