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Can I Take It?

A guide for the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a member of the Legislature, an employee of the Governor, an employee of the Lieutenant Governor, an employee of a Legislator, an employee of a Legislative Agency.

Revised March 17, 2011


RULE NO. 1: You May Never Take Anything As Consideration For An Official Act. The bribery law prohibits payments or gifts made in exchange for an official act. An official act includes a vote, a recommendation, and any other exercise of official discretion.

RULE NO. 2: You May Not Accept An Honorarium For Services You Would Not Have Been Asked To Provide But For Your Official Status. This means, for example, that you may not accept a gift or payment for giving a speech if your official position was a reason for your being asked to give the speech. You may, however, accept meals, transportation, and lodging in connection with a speech as long as your speech is more than merely perfunctory. Also, you may accept a gift that is not a "benefit" such as a plaque or something of minimal value like a coffee cup, key chain, or "gimme" cap.

THE OTHER RULES: If acceptance of a gift or payment is permissible under Rule Nos. 1 and 2, the next step is to determine whether or not the person making the offer is a registered lobbyist.

A. IF THE PERSON MAKING THE OFFER IS A REGISTERED LOBBYIST:

1. You may not accept:

2. You may accept:

Note: You can find out if someone is a registered lobbyist by calling the disclosure filings section of the Ethics Commission at 512-463-5800 or by going to www.ethics.state.tx.us/dfs/search_LOBBY.html on the Internet.

Please Note: Your name will appear on a lobbyist’s activities report:

  • if expenditures for your food, lodging, transportation, or entertainment in a day exceed $90, which is 60 percent of the amount of the legislative per diem;

  • if expenditures for a gift, award, or memento exceed $50; or

  • each time an expenditure is made for you to attend political fundraisers or charity events, regardless of the amount spent.

B. IF THE PERSON MAKING THE OFFER IS NOT A REGISTERED LOBBYIST:

You are subject to a general prohibition on taking any benefit from anybody. (A "benefit" is anything reasonably regarded as pecuniary gain or advantage.) There are, however, many exceptions to this general rule. You may accept a gift, payment, or contribution as long as the gift, payment, or contribution fits into any one of the following categories.

 

* kinship

* a personal relationship independent of your official status

* a professional relationship independent of your official status

* a business relationship independent of your official status.


  • Fees For Services: You may accept a payment to which you are lawfully entitled in a capacity other than your official status. In this case you may accept the offer without restriction. Remember, you may not take an honorarium for a service that you would not have been asked to provide but for your official status.

  • Political Contributions: You may accept a political contribution as a candidate or officeholder.

  • Government Property: You may accept an item issued by a governmental entity that allows the use of property or facilities owned, leased, or operated by the entity.

  • Food, Entertainment, Transportation, & Lodging: Benefits in the form of food, lodging, transportation, or entertainment are permissible if accepted as a "guest" and reported in accordance with any applicable reporting requirement. To accept something as a guest, the donor must be present. For most state employees there is no applicable reporting requirement. Board members and agency heads may be required to report certain gifts on their annual personal financial statement.

Donations to Charity:  If you receive an unsolicited benefit that you are prohibited from accepting, you may donate the benefit to a recognized tax-exempt charitable organization formed for educational, religious, or scientific purposes.



NOTICES

In compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, the publications of the Texas Ethics Commission are available by request in alternative formats. To request an accessible format, please contact our ADA Compliance Officer by telephone at 512-463-5800, or through RELAY Texas at 800-735-2989; or by mail in care of the Texas Ethics Commission, P.O. Box 12070, Austin, Texas 78711.

The Texas Ethics Commission is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate in providing services or employment.

Copies of this publication have been distributed in accordance with the State Depository Law and are available for public use through the Texas State Publications Depository Program at the Texas State Library and other state depository libraries.

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