Denali Commission--Anti-Lobbying Restrictions
B-317821, Jun 30, 2009
The Inspector General of the Denali Commission has requested an advance decision on the availability of the Denali Commission's appropriations to contact Members of Congress and congressional staff about the agency's reauthorization, including the use of appropriations for related travel costs. Letter from Mike Marsh, Inspector General, Denali Commission, to Susan Poling, Managing Associate General Counsel, GAO, Feb. 6, 2009 (Denali Request Letter). In this regard, the Inspector General has asked specifically whether Denali Commissioners and their personal staff, who are not federal employees, may contact Members of Congress and congressional staff for this purpose, and whether the agency may provide travel funding for Commissioners and their personal staff for this purpose.
Denali Commissioners, when performing their duties as Commissioners, may contact members of the Alaska delegation, as well as other Members of Congress, regarding the agency's possible reauthorization or other agency business. Anti-lobbying restrictions do not prohibit such direct contact with Members of Congress. Commissioners' personal staff, who represent, or act for, their Commissioner, also may discuss reauthorization with Members of Congress and their staff. However, anti-lobbying provisions prohibit Commissioners and their personal staff from using appropriated funds to engage in grassroots lobbying by encouraging interest groups and grantees to contact Members of Congress and congressional staff regarding Denali's reauthorization. The Byrd amendment prohibits Commissioners and their personal staff from using grant funds to contact Members of Congress and congressional staff in connection with a grant award. With regard to travel reimbursements, the Denali Commission Act provides for the reimbursement of travel expenses, including per diem, of Commissioners incurred in performance of their service as Commissioners. The Federal Co-chair may use appropriated funds to reimburse travel expenses of the Commissioners' personal staff so long as the Federal Co-chair, or his delegee, determines that the cost is a necessary expense of the agency and that the primary purpose of the travel was in performance, or support of, the Commissioner's duties to the Denali Commission.