March 11, 2005
Marian U. Aguillard
Louisiana Environmental Health Association
P.O. Box 2661
Baton Rouge, LA 70821-26621
RE: Ethics Board Docket No. 2005-123
Dear Mr. Aguillard:
The Louisiana Board of Ethics, at its March 10, 2005 meeting, considered your request for an advisory opinion concerning whether companies that make donations to the Louisiana Environmental Health Association (LEHA), to help defray its administrative costs, must report these expenditures on their Executive Branch Lobbying reports. You stated that LEHA is a non-profit, tax-exempt, professional organization designed for professionals in the environmental health field. LEHA has a membership that consists of various individuals, including some executive branch officials. LEHA stages yearly educational conferences which provide a forum for discussions relating to air, land and water pollution control, along with hazardous and solid waste management. You stated that companies make donations to LEHA in an attempt to help the organization defray certain administrative costs such as conference expenses, meeting room rental, catering services, printing services, postage and other miscellaneous costs. You further stated that LEHA does not attempt to influence state agency policy, nor does the organization employ a lobbyist. Finally, you stated that, LEHA bestows honorary memberships on public or elected officials, in which they waive the $10 yearly membership fees.
The Board concluded and instructed me to inform you that, generally, donations made by companies directly to LEHA in an attempt to help the organization defray administrative costs of its educational conferences and workshops would not be considered an “expenditure” as that term is defined in LSA-R.S. 49:72(5). “Expenditure” is defined in LSA-R.S. 49:72(5) as a gift or payment of money or anything of value when the amount of value exceeds ten dollars for the purchase of food, drink, or refreshment for an executive branch official and any gift or payment permitted by R.S. 42:1123(13) when the value exceeds ten dollars for the purpose of lobbying when the lobbyist or principal accounts, or would be expected to account, for the expenditure as an ordinary and necessary expense directly related to the active conduct of the lobbyist's, his employer's, or the principal's trade or business. “Lobbying” is defined in LSA-R.S. 49:72(6) as a direct act or communication with an executive branch official, the purpose of which is to aid in influencing an executive branch action.
Because the funds donated to LEHA are being spent by that group to facilitate educational activities and are not being spent in conjunction with any direct act or communications with executive branch officials intended to aid in influencing an executive branch action, the donations would not need to be reported to the Board as “expenditures” under the Executive Lobbying Act.
However, Section 1111A prohibits public servants from receiving anything of economic value for the performance of their official duties. As such, public servants are not allowed to receive a waiver of the $10 yearly LEHA membership fee.
In the future, if you would like a more detailed opinion as to whether a specific company may donate funds to LEHA to assist with the costs of a certain event and whether that expense would be considered an “expenditure” under the Executive Lobbying Act (LSA-R.S. 42:71 et seq.), please provide the Board with the specific company name and the particular circumstances surrounding the donation and the LEHA event to be held.
The Board issues no opinion regarding laws other than the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics. If you have any questions, please contact me at (800) 842-6630 or (225) 763-8777.
LOUISIANA BOARD OF ETHICS
For the Board