An ethical checklist for public affairs practitioners

Public affairs professionals in Washington have always had to live by a set of ethical rules that guide interactions with elected officials and government employees. ...

Public affairs professionals in Washington have always had to live by a set of ethical rules that guide interactions with elected officials and government employees. Within the past two years, those rules have tightened, prompted by egregious ethical violations by a few bad apples, and more recently, the arrival of a new Administration. As a matter of course, the Weber Shandwick staff undergoes regular ethics training to ensure they understand the parameters under which we must work. Violations can be incredibly costly, even when well-intentioned.

As a best practice, ask these questions if you’re planning any kind of activity that may involve people who work in Congress or the White House administration:

• What is the threshold for registering as a lobbyist?
• What kind of gifts are allowed under the rules?
• What menu items are permitted at your event?
• Can you hold a contest, a raffle, or a giveaway?
• Can you give incentives for conducting research with Washington insiders and Hill staff?

Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. No one has ever been fined for being too careful.

Pam Jenkins, president, Powell Tate, Weber Shandwick’s Public Affairs arm

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