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After discouraging lobbyists from sending Christmas cards last holiday season, the State Ethics Commission has ruled that holiday cards are not gifts and may be sent to state officials without fear of violating state law.

The ruling came as a relief to many lobbyists who sent cards and were afraid they might be punished.

The question arose from a 2006 overhaul of North Carolina’s ethics law, which banned state employees in positions of authority from receiving “anything of monetary value” from lobbyists. In 2007, the General Assembly exempted cards, flowers and charitable contributions given in response to someone’s death, but did not exempt other cards.

According to Executive Director Perry Newson, that gave the commission no choice but to play Scrooge.

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