Archives: Campaign Finance

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MSRB Pay-to-Play Challenge Stymied by Sixth Circuit over Standing

Over the past few years, a few state political party committees have relentlessly sought to block or overturn pay-to-play laws overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit delivered another defeat to an ongoing effort to challenge federal pay-to-play laws. Last year, we noted that the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) … Continue Reading

Kentucky Raises Contribution Limits in July, Adjusts Reporting

Starting this month, nearly all of Kentucky’s campaign contribution limits increase, excepting contributions that remain either unlimited in amount or prohibited. Perhaps the most substantial change is the establishment of building fund accounts for political party executive committees, which may now accept unlimited funds from corporations. Also of note is the elimination of an aggregate $10,000 … Continue Reading

U.S. House Considering Major Change to Trade Association PAC Fundraising Rules

The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations is considering a major change to the way trade associations are allowed to raise money into their political action committees (PACs).  Currently, if a trade association wants to solicit money from its member companies’ employees, it must first get advance approval from the company, and each company can authorize … Continue Reading

Will the FEC Declare War on Russia?

Noting that we are at an “all hands on deck” moment for our democracy, FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub circulated to the Commission yesterday a document citing former Vice President Dick Cheney for the proposition that the United States is now at war with Russia, and that “[e]very part of our government that has jurisdiction over … Continue Reading

The FEC Revisits the Ban on Foreign Nationals’ Financing of American Elections

On Thursday, the FEC will return to the question of foreign nationals’ involvement in United States elections. This is an important question that deserves appropriate attention from our government.  Be it the role of Chinese government-linked funds in the 1996 presidential campaign or the Russian government-linked cyber intrusion in the 2016 presidential race, Congress and … Continue Reading

California AG Becerra Hints at Crackdown on Nonprofit Political Activity

Nonprofits that are active in California politics, already facing one of the most complex regulatory environments in the country, now have another thing to worry about: the state’s Attorney General.  In remarks Wednesday, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced his intent to pursue nonprofit organizations that he believes “abuse” their nonprofit status for political purposes.  With the … Continue Reading

What’s Next for the FEC?

Commissioner Ann Ravel’s decision to resign from the Federal Election Commission will have short term and long term effects on an agency empowered to interpret and enforce the federal campaign finance laws and disclose the money raised and spent in federal elections.  Its short term effects should be minimal.  The statute requires four votes for … Continue Reading

FEC Increases Contribution Limits to Party Committees, Leaves Candidate Limits the Same

The Federal Election Commission has announced contribution limits for the 2017-2018 election cycle.  The new limits are effective January 1, 2017. The FEC did not change the limit on the amount an individual can contribution to a candidate, leaving the limit at $2700 per election.  Because the primary and general count as separate elections, individuals may … Continue Reading

The 2017 Presidential Inauguration: Ethics and Compliance Issues

With Election Day 2016 in the books, the political world turns to the transition of power and the January 20, 2017 Inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. With the swearing in of the new President and Vice President will come the traditional balls, parties, and receptions. The inauguration and related events … Continue Reading

Guidelines for Interacting with President-Elect Trump’s Transition Team

Over the next nine weeks, the Trump Presidential Transition team will formulate policy and staffing recommendations for the new administration. This alert gives a broad overview of the Transition and the laws that regulate interactions with Transition team members on issues related to appointments and policy recommendations. Persons interested in this topic may also wish … Continue Reading

Federal Court in D.C. Rules Against FEC in Important Disclosure Case

In an important decision, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper today ordered the Federal Election Commission to reconsider its dismissal of a complaint filed by CREW against two tax-exempt advocacy organizations that have never registered with the FEC.  CREW alleged that the two groups, American Action Network and Americans for Job Security, had as their “major … Continue Reading

FEC to Reconsider Political Involvement by U.S. Subsidiaries of Foreign Corporations on Tuesday

Foreign nationals, both individuals and corporations, have long been barred from making contributions in federal, state or local elections in the United States. The statutory prohibition includes contributions made “directly” or “indirectly,” bars the solicitation as well as the making of contributions, and since 2002, includes a ban on expenditures, independent expenditures, or electioneering communications … Continue Reading

IRS Steps into Fray on Political Activities

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued two private letter rulings (PLRs) that may be interesting for tax-exempt organizations that engage in political activity. In the first ruling, the IRS held that a company could not deduct payments made to charity under a PAC matching contribution program as an “ordinary and necessary business expense.”  While … Continue Reading

The Supreme Court Redraws the Lines for Corruption Prosecutions

The Ferrari carrying former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell appears to have made a U-turn this week on its way to the federal penitentiary.  Covington released today a Client Alert on the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonnell v. United States, a decision which vacated Governor McDonnell’s conviction and redraws the lines for corruption prosecutions.   The Court held a public … Continue Reading

Coercing Contributions at Work: The FEC’s Latest Decision

On Friday, three Federal Election Commission (FEC) Commissioners provided a clear description of their understanding of the facts and law that led them to oppose opening an investigation into whether Murray Energy coerced its employees into making political contributions. Statement of Reasons of Chairman Petersen and Commissioners Hunter and Goodman, FEC MUR 6661.  While clarity … Continue Reading

“When One Door Closes . . .”: McCain-Feingold Opens “Soft Money” Loophole In the States

A recent settlement between the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) and Massachusetts Republican Party may highlight an emerging trend: state parties using federal preemption to avoid strict state campaign finance laws.  At issue was whether the Massachusetts Republican Party could use funds from its federal campaign account to pay for staff and … Continue Reading

Forming and Operating Super PACs: A Practical Guide for Political Consultants in 2016

Covington recently released a high-level primer that provides political consultants with a practical resource for creating and running a federal Super PAC in a legally compliant manner.  The primer, which is available here, explains the history and basic rules that apply to federal Super PACs.  The primer then discusses the following key topics: checklist of … Continue Reading

New Overtime Rules May Spell Trouble For Some Corporate PACs

The Obama Administration’s publication yesterday of a regulation increasing the universe of employees entitled to overtime pay might reduce the number of employees from whom corporate PACs can seek contributions. The new regulations, which take effect on December 1, 2016, increase the salary level below which certain employees are entitled to overtime pay.  Currently, salaried … Continue Reading

FCC Releases TCPA Enforcement Advisory Directed to Political Campaigns

Yesterday, the FCC released an Enforcement Advisory to remind political campaigns about their obligations under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).  The Advisory did not set forth any new rules for calls and texts; rather, it confirmed existing rules and reminded political campaigns that they are subject to them. The Advisory first confirmed that prerecorded … Continue Reading

California Regulation, Proposed Statute Add to State’s Reputation for Complex, Detailed Disclosure

California is already home to some of the most complicated and searching political regulations in the country, especially in its efforts to expose “dark money” and other undisclosed political spending.  A newly-amended lobbying regulation and proposed campaign finance law will enhance that reputation.  The practical effect of each is to invite deeper scrutiny of not … Continue Reading

Congressional Spending Bill Shuts Down Key Goals of Campaign Finance Reform Community

A major spending bill posted late last night by Congressional leaders contains provisions shooting down two key initiatives of the campaign finance reform community.  Stymied by a Federal Election Commission that has increasingly struggled to find consensus, campaign finance activists in recent years have turned their attention to other federal regulators, pressing those regulators to … Continue Reading

Will President Obama’s New Overtime Regulations Shrink Corporate Restricted Classes?

Corporate PAC managers may soon find that the universe of employees who receive corporate PAC solicitations has unexpectedly shrunk.  In July 2015, the Department of Labor proposed new regulations that would dramatically increase the number of workers entitled to overtime wages.  The Department of Labor estimates that, under the new regulations, approximately 5 million new … Continue Reading
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