For federal employees in the Washington, D.C. area, many inaugural events will be held over the next few weeks. As federal employees, they need to be aware of certain ethical constraints that come with the job. While many of inaugural events may pose no ethical questions for workers, some conflicts could occur. No federal employee wants to be subject to an investigation or discipline because they attended the wrong party or accepted one too many drinks.
The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is responsible for policing these questions and has issued guidance, highlighting potential areas of ethical violations that could derive from inaugural events.
OGE’s statement noted, “In connection with this occasion, a federal employee may receive offers of free attendance from various sources to attend Inauguration-related events, including the Inaugural Parade, Inaugural Balls, receptions, dinners, and fundraisers.”
One area OGE points out is the $20 limit on gifts per event. For instance, “This exception could apply, for example, to gifts of food or drink at a reception or dinner or other event.”
A catch here is that if you are given “free” tickets to the event, OGE states that the event will be valued at the face value of the ticket. If the tickets were greater than $20, mere attendance would be a violation of the limit.
OGE also reminds all employees that Hatch Act restrictions apply to any political fundraising.
Source: the Washington Post, “Ethics restrictions for federal workers apply to inaugural activities,” Eric Yoder, January 2, 2013