MAIL BAG: TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME? NOT IF YOUR CUSTOMER IS A FED
Newly unemployed reader A. McMaster of Washington, D.C. writes, “My new company has a federal client that loves baseball. We’d like to take him to our suite for National’s home opener. We do this for our commercial customers who don’t buy nearly as much from us. Can we take our federal client?” Sorry, A., but you strike out here before you even get to the plate. Federal ethics rules prohibit a gift from a “covered source” (that’d be any contractor) that is valued at more than $20 per occasion. Similarly, federal employees are prohibited from taking gifts valued at more than $50 a year from the same source. Even bleacher seats and a coke put you past the $20 limit. Both you and your customer can get in trouble if you offer, and they accept, any gift that exceeds these amounts. Even though federal employees receive regular ethics training, people being people will still sometimes accept things they know they should not. Your customer may get a slap on the wrist, but you could end up being personally added to the Excluded Parties List (yes, this has happened to contractor’s bearing gifts). Keep yourself in the game and make sure you and your company know the rules about gifts. If you’re really looking for someone in federal, Allen Federal sings a mean rendition of “Take Me Out To the Ballgame”.