Archives: Campaign Finance

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Political Law Potpourri—The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018

While the din over a possible government shutdown dominated the headlines, political law played a supporting role in the recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act (Pub. L. No. 115-141).  The content and omissions of the so-called “Omnibus” spending bill will be of interest to political actors in all sectors, but particularly those operating nonprofit entities engaged … Continue Reading

Federal Court Decision Puts Brakes on Issue Ads

As the 2018 mid-term season approaches, viewers may be seeing fewer issue advertisements paid for by so-called “dark money” groups.  In a consequential decision, a federal court in Washington, D.C. concluded yesterday that all “electioneering communications” presumptively count as political spending for purposes of determining whether a group should register as a political action committee … Continue Reading

Politically Active Nonprofits Face New Donor Disclosure Law in Washington

Yesterday, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the DISCLOSE Act, a law that imposes new donor disclosure requirements on politically active nonprofits. Under the new law, a nonprofit entity—including, but not limited to a charity, educational institution, advocacy group or trade association—may be required to register with the state as an “incidental committee” … Continue Reading

FEC Announces Internet Rulemaking

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) unanimously approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, beginning the formal process of amending the agency’s regulations on internet political disclaimers.  The proposal and the Commissioners’ comments at the hearing reflect a fair amount of consensus on how to refashion rules that have been the source of significant disputes over the … Continue Reading

St. Petersburg Passes Anti-Super PAC Ordinance, Hoping to Set Up Constitutional Showdown

The City of St. Petersburg, Florida yesterday passed an ordinance designed to take the question of “Super PACs” to the Supreme Court for the first time.  The ordinance, which we discussed in detail earlier this year, imposes a $5,000 limit on contributions to groups that raise money for or make independent expenditures or electioneering communications … Continue Reading

The Top Three Political Law Risks for Hedge Funds, Private Equity Funds, and Investment Firms

Perhaps no industry faces more scrutiny and regulation of its political activities than the financial services industry.   Even though these rules are often not intuitive, failure to comply with them can result in big penalties, loss of business, and debilitating reputational consequences.  In this advisory, we describe three sometimes overlooked political law related risks for hedge funds, … Continue Reading

California Legislature Passes “California DISCLOSE Act,” a Complex but Clarifying Update to the State’s Political Advertising Disclosure Rules

Over the weekend, the California legislature passed AB249, the California DISCLOSE Act, a controversial set of campaign finance disclosure rules that have been years in the making.  The law now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval.  The law’s proponents have argued that it is necessary in order to provide voters with complete information about the sponsors … Continue Reading

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
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