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 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.

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Covington Issues Client Advisory Regarding STOCK Act and Political Intelligence Gathering

Covington’s cross-disciplinary team of political lawyers and securities lawyers that has been advising clients on STOCK Act compliance and enforcement issues for more than a year today issued a new client advisory, which is available here.  The advisory outlines examples of steps that companies can take to address STOCK Act risks, in an environment in … Continue Reading

Connecticut Governor’s Gift Rule Issue Highlights the Legal Minefield for Corporate Events

A brewing controversy over Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy’s trip to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner highlights how media corporations and other firms that invite public officials to events can become embroiled in government ethics matters (h/t Eric Brown’s Political Activity Law Blog).  The Governor reportedly accepted an invitation to attend the WHCA at the … Continue Reading

Covington Issues Client Advisory Concerning Senate PSI Campaign Finance Investigation

Today we issued a detailed advisory to clients about the anticipated campaign finance investigation by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.  Senator Levin, who chairs the Subcommittee, recently announced his intention to lead an investigation of “secret money” in US elections.  We are following this very closely for clients, including corporations, trade associations, advocacy groups, … Continue Reading

Conference Call on Corporate Political Spending Disclosure

Many public companies are busy fending off shareholder demands (in one form or another) that they disclose political and lobbying expenditures.  Covington’s Election and Political Law Practice Group and its Securities Law Practice Group are holding a conference call this Thursday, March 21, 2013, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, to discuss recent developments, and strategies companies … Continue Reading

Levin Warns of Congressional Investigation Concerning Undisclosed Money in Elections

In a press statement yesterday announcing that he would not run for re-election to the Senate in 2014, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) foreshadowed a new investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (“PSI”) concerning what he described as the IRS’s “failure” to police the use of undisclosed political money by tax-exempt organizations.  As the … Continue Reading

Shareholder Demands for Corporate Political Disclosure

The Conference Board has issued an interesting report on “Corporate Political Spending.”  The report addresses an increasingly high-profile issue for politically active public companies: demands from shareholders and interest groups that corporations publicly disclose all of their political and lobbying activities.  Much disclosure is already required, of course, by federal, state and local campaign finance … Continue Reading

’Tis the Season: Vetting and Confirmation Season For Presidential Appointees Is Already Underway

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 … Continue Reading

Allegations Of Employer Coercion of Political Activity Are On The Rise

A recent complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission against an Ohio company, Murray Energy, alleging that its senior executive illegally coerced employees to contribute to the company’s political action committee is garnering a fair amount of attention.  It’s not unusual to see allegations of employer coercion emerge in the last weeks before an election.  … Continue Reading

DOJ Announces Two New Lobbying Disclosure Act Enforcement Actions

The United States Attorney for the District of Columbia today announced two new civil enforcement actions against lobbying firms for failure to file required federal Lobbying Disclosure Act (“LDA”) reports.  Two Virginia-based lobbying firms entered into civil settlement agreements with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  One firm — Lussier, Gregor, Vienna & Associates — agreed to pay a … Continue Reading

U.S. DOJ’s Public Integrity Section Issues New Annual Report

The Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section (“PIN”) is out with its annual report to Congress for 2011.  PIN has oversight responsibility for the prosecution of criminal laws related to the abuse of public trust by government officials, including federal campaign finance laws.  It handles cases directly and also serves in an advisory capacity to … Continue Reading

GAO Opens a New Wave of Lobbying Disclosure Act Compliance Audits

Based on reports from around town here in D.C., the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) has begun a new wave of audits of firms that are registered under the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act (“LDA”).  These periodic audits are required under legislation enacted in 2007, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (“HLOGA”).  HLOGA requires that registrants … Continue Reading

SEC “Risk Alert” Issued Regarding Pay-to-Play Compliance

In an unusual development, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations has issued a “National Examination Risk Alert” summarizing its findings after pay-to-play compliance examinations conducted by the SEC staff.  The examinations focused on municipal securities dealers that are subject to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s pay-to-play rule, which is referred … Continue Reading

“Pay to Play” Laws Continue To Bite

While Super PACs and million dollar contributions have dominated the campaign finance headlines this election year, as with every election, there are trends developing just below the surface that the media have yet to focus on clearly.  This year, one of those emerging trends is the increasing bite of so-called “pay to play” laws.  These … Continue Reading

The Truth About National Political Party Fundraising

The Campaign Finance Institute has just released an analysis of national political party fundraising so far this election cycle.  The report concludes that the national parties are “holding their own” and refers to “the parties’ hard money success since 2002.”  This appears to be a revisionist attempt to demonstrate that the McCain-Feingold law (formally the … Continue Reading

Rhode Island Revises Its Campaign Finance Laws to Require Additional Disclosure of Independent Expenditures

Rhode Island recently joined the growing list of states that have updated their campaign finance laws to reflect the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.  Important revisions to the state’s statute took effect at the end of June 2012.  The new law requires that independent expenditure ads or electioneering communications aired … Continue Reading

Is Increased Criminal Enforcement of Election Laws on the Way Because the FEC and DOJ Are Making Nice-Nice?

Way back in the 1970s, the FEC and the Department of Justice signed a Memorandum of Understanding (the “MOU”) outlining how they would manage their concurrent jurisdiction for violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act.  The FEC has civil jurisdiction and the DOJ has criminal jurisdiction.  But over the years, the relationship between the two … Continue Reading
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