March 8, 1999
Mr. Gary Ruskin
Congressional Accountability Project
1611 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite #3A
Washington, D.C. 20009
Dear Mr. Ruskin:
Thank you for your letter suggesting, inaccurately, that the rules of the House of Representatives exempt the vast majority of House employees from the Gift Rule restrictions contained in clause 5 of rule XXVI. Let me assure you that no such exemption exists.
Clause 4 of rule XXVI contains a drafting error which, on its own, could reasonably be interpreted to exempt certain House employees from the restrictions of the House Gift Rule. However, I would draw your attention to clause 4 of rule XXIV, which states: "A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House may not accept gifts except
as provided by clause 5 of rule XXVI." Clause 14 of rule XXIV defines an employee of the House to be "an individual whose compensation is disbursed by the Chief Administrative Officer." The clarity of rule XXIV overrides any ambiguities that may exist as a result of clause 4 of rule XXVI. In addition, the legislative history of the recodified rules of the House clearly states that no substantive changes to the rules were intended.
The Rules Committee is undertaking a thorough review of the rules of the House to identify any ambiguities, inconsistencies, or typographical errors that may have been made in the recodification project. Once this review is complete, the Committee may recommend clarifying and technical changes to the House. While I agree that clause 4 of rule XXVI needs to be clarified, there is no ambiguity in who is covered by the Gift Rule.
I appreciate your concern about inappropriate gift-giving and believe the rules of the House are more than adequate to "safeguard" the legislative process against potential abuse.