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Posted at 03:45 PM ET, 03/21/2011

Memo to House members outlines do’s and don’ts of soliciting donations for Japan

Members of the House of Representatives are prohibited from using their official resources to solicit donations for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, according to a memo sent to members late last week.

The memo from the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on Ethics details the ways in which lawmakers may or may not use their official offices to assist with relief efforts in Japan.

For instance, House members can use their official resources to direct constituents to international, federal, state and local government agencies that are coordinating U.S. aid efforts, such as USAID, the Departments of State and Energy and the Japanese Meteorological Agency.

But “referrals to organizations or links to sites whose primary purpose is the solicitation of goods, funds or services on behalf of individuals or organizations are not permitted under the rules of the House,” according to the memo.

Members also are prohibited from using their official resources to ask for donations of “goods, funds, or services on behalf of charities and other private organizations involved in relief efforts.”

“We understand the good intentions of those making such inquiries, but the rules of the House preclude Members from using official resources for any purpose other than in support of the conduct of the Member’s official and representational duties on behalf of the district which the Member represents,” the memo reads. “This has been interpreted in the past to mean that charitable solicitations using official resources are not permitted.”

Members are allowed to solicit donations in their personal capacities, provided the donations go toward groups such as 501(c)(3) organizations. Other groups that solicit donations for specific individuals are decided on a case-by-case basis.

The full memo, which was circulated last Friday, can be found here.

Salley Wood, communications director for the Committee on House Administration, noted that the memo on Japan is similar to one that went out last year in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.

By  |  03:45 PM ET, 03/21/2011

 
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