It may seem odd, given that we are still two weeks away from the presidential election, but we are already starting to get calls from both Republican and Democratic aspirants for presidential appointments in the next administration, even before we know whose administration it will be.  Presidential appointees must endure a highly intrusive “vetting” process by the White House (or before the inauguration, by the transition team), and then in some cases must survive the Senate confirmation process.  Particularly for high net worth individuals with complex financial holdings that could present conflicts of interest, the vetting process can be lengthy, perilous, and excruciatingly uncomfortable.  Savvy aspirants know what they are in for and begin planning early.  Sometimes very early — as in, even before the election.

Covington is one of a small handful of firms that have specialized “vetting” practices.  The vetting process tends to ramp up around the time of the presidential election, and then again a couple of years into the new administration, when key positions start to turn over.  The individual who is being vetted may face a wide array of questions relating to tax returns, sources of income, investments, past and present affiliations and club memberships, published and non-published writings, extramarital dalliances, drug use, and other awkward topics.  There are highly arcane government ethics related disclosure rules that come into play and many forms to be filled out.  There are FBI background check interviews to be endured.

Few who go down this path really know what they are in for, unless they’ve done it before.  It ain’t pretty.

We plan to occasionally blog about the vetting process after the election.  For now, readers may be interested in a little primer we prepared during the last vetting “season,” which lays out the key things you need to know if you are contemplating putting yourself on the chopping block and being considered by either campaign’s transition team for a presidential appointment.

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Photo of Robert Kelner Robert Kelner

Robert Kelner is the chair of Covington’s Election and Political Law Practice Group. Mr. Kelner provides political law compliance advice to a wide range of corporate and political clients.  His compliance practice focuses on federal and state campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, pay to…

Robert Kelner is the chair of Covington’s Election and Political Law Practice Group. Mr. Kelner provides political law compliance advice to a wide range of corporate and political clients.  His compliance practice focuses on federal and state campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, pay to play, and government ethics laws, as well as legal ethics rules.  His expertise includes the Federal Election Campaign Act, Lobbying Disclosure Act, Ethics in Government Act, Foreign Agents Registration Act, and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  He is also a leading authority on the arcane rules governing political contributions by municipal securities dealers, investment advisers, hedge funds, and private equity funds.  Mr. Kelner advises Presidential political appointees on the complex process of being vetted and confirmed for such appointments.

In addition, he regularly advises corporations and corporate executives on instituting political law compliance programs.  He conducts compliance training for senior corporate executives and lobbyists.  He has extensive experience conducting corporate internal investigations concerning campaign finance and lobbying law compliance, as well as other corporate compliance matters.  Mr. Kelner regularly defends clients in investigations by the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. House & Senate Ethics Committees, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, the House & Senate Judiciary Committees, the House Energy & Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and other congressional committees.  He has prepared numerous CEOs and corporate executives for testimony before congressional investigation panels, and he regularly leads the Practicing Law Institute’s training program on congressional investigations for in-house lawyers.  He also defends clients in Lobbying Disclosure Act audits by the GAO and enforcement actions and audits by state election and lobbying enforcement agencies.

Mr. Kelner has appeared as a commentator on political law matters on The PBS News Hour, CNBC, Fox News, and NPR, and he has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Legal Times, Washington Times, Roll Call, The Hill, Politico, USA Today, Financial Times, and other publications.