Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What does "no gifts" mean to legislators?

One day last December, House Speaker Jim Black told reporters he no longer would accept any gifts from lobbyists. Here’s what the Observer’s story Dec. 15 quoted Black saying: “That means fruitcake, ham, meals, golf,” Black said. The story also noted, “Giving gifts to N.C. politicians is legal, but lobbyists will have to start filing public reports in 2007 when they give lawmakers anything of value.”
Clear enough. Black didn’t impose his rule on anyone else, but lawmakers have discussed adopted a no-gifts rule in pending ethics reform legislation.
A no-gifts rule sounds good – but does it mean anything? You be the judge. Not long ago the House created a voluntary no-gifts list where representatives could indicate they wouldn’t accept gifts.
Last week, state Rep. Jim Harrell, D-Surry, was criticized in the Winston-Salem Journal for having accepted tickets to a Carolina Hurricanes hockey game after putting his name on the no-gifts list. But that no-gifts list doesn’t mean what you might think.
House Principal Clerk Denise Watkins sent the following clarification to legislators:
To: @House/Members Subject: “No Gifts List” clarification
Importance: High
For clarification on the “No Gifts List”… if you would like to have your name added to the “No Gifts List”, it simply means you do not want any items delivered to your office … no coffee mugs, no bags of peanuts, no Tee shirts, no pens, etc. If you want your name on the list, we enter that information into the database we maintain for House Members. Your web page will have a field that will show that you are on the “No Gifts List” and a document will also be generated with a complete list of all the names on the list and will be posted on the website.
This list is not a result of legislation. It is an attempt to inform interest groups and lobbyists that you do not want any items delivered to you. Of course, I cannot guarantee that these groups or lobbyists will refer to such a list, but it will be made available.

11 comments:

Jack Betts said...

In an e-mail message from Rep. Harrell, here's what he had to say about that "no gift" list: "I thought that the tool would be useful to keep 'junk' out of our office..... the list has not helped one bit on keeping junk out of the office. Apparently no one checks the list before they drop off items. Now we have to chase them down."

Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on what your definition of "is" is?

Politics is destroying our state and nation.

Anonymous said...

The no gifts list was started by Rep. Bill Faison, ask him what no gifts means.

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