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Congressional Foreign Gifts FAQ

Overview about Foreign Gifts

What are "foreign gifts"?

Foreign gifts are defined in the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act as anything, tangible or intangible, of monetary value given by a foreign government, international organization or agent. This means that a helicopter ride provided by the United Nations, hotel stay paid for by Saudi Arabia or a painting from a municipal government in Spain are all considered foreign gifts.

Who must file foreign gift reports?

All federal employees of all branches of government and their spouses (senators, military officers, House committee staff, the First Lady, etc.).

Where does LegiStorm get its foreign gifts data?

We have two collection methods. The first is from the House Ethics Committee (formerly the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee). The committee makes publicly available the filings of members and their staff once they have been turned in. The Senate Ethics Committee does not allow viewing of foreign gift filings. However, we gather summaries of these gifts as they are filed in the Federal Register each year. For this reason, our House filings are both more detailed, more current, and also why we provide a viewable PDF along with them.

What kind of travel expenses can be included?

All kinds of travel expenses can be found in this database, but a foreign government cannot pay for travel to and from the United States. This means that this foreign gift travel must occur during another kind of travel, such as a privately sponsored trip (which we link to if applicable), or a U.S.-government-financed congressional delegation trip, or CODEL.

May a member of Congress keep a gift from a foreign government?

Yes, federal employees, including Members of Congress, may keep gifts presented by foreign governments assuming that the dollar value of the item is less than a minimal value (defined as $335 in 2008). If the items exceed minimal value, they must turn them in to the government for proper storage or disposal.