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I realize the topic has wandered, but just to be clear, the Federal sector ethics rules on gifts actually allow a supervisor to give a subordinate a gift. Subordinates (or those who make less money) cannot, however, give a superior a gift. There are exceptions for extraordinary events, which means that it is allowable to take up a collection for a gift for something like a wedding or the birth of a child.

Luckily, there is also an exception that says, "These rules do not prohibit an employee from giving a gift to another employee, or accepting a gift from another employee, as long as a personal friendship justifies the gift and the employees are not in the same supervisory “chain of command.” " Which is a good thing because otherwise Christmas and birthdays would be really boring in the ThyPeace household. I have never been aware of a violation of this part of the ethics code.

The stronger gifts rules -- and the ones more likely to be broken in major ways -- involve any Federal employee. No Federal employee is allowed to accept a gift from any "prohibited source."

A prohibited source is a person (or an organization made up of such persons) who:

- is seeking official action by, is doing business or seeking to do business with, or is regulated by the employee's agency, or
- has interests that may be substantially affected by performance or nonperformance of the employee's official duties.

There are exceptions here, too. An employee may receive a gift worth less than $20 -- a t-shirt, a mug, that sandwich and soda -- as long as the total over the year from any one source is less than $50. This makes for difficult lunches when we go out with people who are contractors. The rule is usually "everyone buys their own," which in some places is considered to be odd bordering on rude.

I have heard of prosecutions on these grounds, though they don't happen all that often. However, this is where corruption and bribery are prevented, and I think the Federal ethics rules as they are stated and enforced are generally good things. (And yes, they are enforced. I have occasionally been involved in situations where ethics reporting and evaluations were required, and it is taken very seriously indeed.)

If anyone is interested in more details about Federal gift ethics, there is a web site here.

ThyPeace, notes that there are much stronger and more complex rules when you get into the world of procurement.
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