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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 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.

The Democratic and Republican National Party Conventions are a premiere forum for businesses and trade groups to elevate their priorities to candidates, elected officials, and staff. However, thanks to a complex regulatory regime, participation in convention events can invite scrutiny and legal trouble. The Republican Convention is scheduled to take place in Milwaukee from July

Over the past several weeks, legislatures in Arizona, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee have introduced bills that mirror the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”). There has been a trend in the states to enact so-called “baby FARA” laws that apply to foreign influenced political activity in the states, although until

On December 1, 2023, three top U.S. government officials responsible for enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) gave remarks at the American Conference Institute’s 5th National Forum on FARA. In their remarks, each of the speakers – Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eun Young Choi, the Acting Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section

Last week, a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators introduced the Retroactive Foreign Agents Registration Act (“RFARA”) in the U.S. Congress.  Led by Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, the bill would amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) to clarify

The Department of Justice’s FARA Unit released several new advisory opinions in recent weeks that interpret the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) and its regulations.  While the newly published opinions addressed a number of topics, the FARA Unit’s broad reading of the FARA triggers and the jurisdictional scope of the statute are common themes.  One

Late last week, the Committee on Oversight and Accountability published the House of Representative’s “Authorization and Oversight Plans.” The massive 241-page report is required by the House rules, and the Oversight Committee’s report collects the individual oversight plans that each standing committee of the House is required to create at the start of a new

Covington annually publishes a detailed survey of state campaign finance, lobbying, and gift rules.  Now, for the first time, Covington is releasing an updated survey that details federal campaign finance, lobbying, and gift rules, in addition to those of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Corporations, trade associations, non-profits, other organizations, and individuals face

The contentious 2020 election cycle, debate over hot-button issues, including the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and increased investor focus on ESG matters (as well as criticism of such focus) have led to an increased focus on shareholder proposals requesting disclosure of corporate political expenditures.  This Covington Alert

For over a decade, Covington has published a detailed survey of the “pay-to-play” laws of all 50 states.  Now, for the first time, Covington is updating the survey with a new section covering federal pay-to-play rules, in addition to those of the 50 states and many cities and counties.  This new section details the federal