Reporting Finger Food: An Ethical Necessity or Obnoxious Hassle?

Feb 14, 2017


Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, is pushing for an exception to lawmaker's disclosure forms.
Credit Steve Helber / AP

It’s been more than two years since former Republican Governor Bob McDonnell was convicted of corruption, but lawmakers are still reacting to the scandal.

 As Michael Pope reports, this year’s ethics reform package includes some provisions critics call new loopholes.


Several years ago, Republican Delegate Todd Gilbert went to a lavish reception where he ate some finger food and drank soda. Several months later, he received notification that the reception was valued at hundreds of dollars, and realized he would have to report the finger food as a gift on his disclosure forms. 

It was the last reception he went to. Now he’s pushing a bill that would allow lawmakers to accept unlimited amounts of food, so long as they're standing while they eat it. That finger food wouldn't have to be reported on their personal financial disclosure forms.

“This just is trying to clean up that whole process so that people don’t get caught in unwary traps while they are standing around eating finger good and having a glass of cola or something," explains Gilbert. 

That's one part of an ethics reform package that is making its way through the General Assembly. Critics say certain parts, like Gilbert's provision, just creates new loopholes.

Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin was the only Senator to vote no on the measure. Ebbin says the bill would allow unlimited meals from lobbyists at work events, like the legislative conferences lawmakers frequently attend across the country. 

“The bill says that any meal provided for attendance at such a meeting is not reportable, and I don’t see why we need more loopholes,” says Ebbin.

The bill also allows the state to redact the home addresses of General Assembly members.