Archives: Enforcement

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The FEC Appears to be Exercising its Powers Without a Quorum

Over the past 10 days, the FEC has been quietly exercising authority reserved for when at least four Commissioners vote in favor of an action.  Since July 3, however, the FEC has only had three Commissioners.  This activity raises consequential questions about the FEC’s ability to act without a quorum, and presents important concerns about … Continue Reading

Increased Enforcement Risk for Criminal Campaign Finance Violations

Every four years, prosecutors at the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) train their sights on money spent to influence the outcome of the presidential election—and those who spend it.  While the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has exclusive jurisdiction to penalize and enforce civil violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), 52 U.S.C. § 30101 et … Continue Reading

DOJ Charges Abramoff in First-Ever Criminal Lobbying Disclosure Act Prosecution

Nearly a decade after his release from prison, having served nearly four years on corruption charges, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff may be heading back behind bars, this time as the first person ever charged and convicted for criminal violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (“LDA”).  Yesterday the Justice Department announced that notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff … Continue Reading

Campaign Finance Violation for Unregistered Political Committee Upheld in Washington State, but $18 Million Penalty Must Still Pass Excessive Fine Test

In one of the most watched campaign finance disclosure enforcement cases, last week, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld a trial court’s finding that a trade association intentionally failed to register and report contributions and expenditures in opposition to a ballot initiative that would have required labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food.  In … Continue Reading

FCC Proposes Nearly $10 Million Fine Against Campaign Vendor for Spoofed Robocalls

On December 13, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (“NAL”) against Kenneth Moser and his telemarketing company, Marketing Support Systems (“MSS”), proposing a fine of $9,997,750 for allegedly transmitting more than 47,000 unlawful spoofed robocalls.  The calls were made over a two-day period in May 2018, one week before California’s … Continue Reading

So-Called “Dark Money” Group Reveals its Donors

In a rare case, a so-called “dark money” group has now publicly released the names of its donors.  Under federal law, if an organization has as its “major purpose” the nomination or election of federal candidates, the organization may be a “political committee” required to report its receipts and disbursements with the Federal Election Committee.  … Continue Reading

Investment Adviser Hit With $100K SEC Fine, a Reminder that Public Universities are Covered by Pay-to-Play Rule

In December, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) fined an investment adviser $100,000 for violating the SEC’s pay-to-play rule.  The SEC’s rule effectively prohibits investment adviser executives and other “covered associates” of an investment adviser from making political contributions in excess of de minimis amounts ($350 per election if the contributor is eligible to vote … Continue Reading

Colorado Enacts Replacement Campaign Finance Enforcement System

Just one week ago, a federal court in Colorado held that the state’s system for enforcing its campaign finance laws was unconstitutional.  Moving quickly, the Colorado Secretary of state has enacted temporary enforcement rules, effective immediately. Under the new rules, any person may file a complaint, just like under the old system.  However, the rules … Continue Reading

Colorado Campaign Finance Enforcement System Found Unconstitutional

In a case with interesting ramifications, a federal court this week struck down major parts of Colorado’s campaign finance enforcement system as unconstitutional. The system at issue, which was created through a ballot initiative, generally allowed any person who believed there had been a violation of the state’s campaign finance laws to file a written … Continue Reading

Covington Issues Updated Investigations Manual for House and Senate Chiefs of Staff

Covington today issued the third edition of its Chiefs of Staff manual on handling investigations of Members of Congress and Congressional staff.  The manual was originally published in 2014, but has been updated twice since then.  The new third edition includes some of the latest available statistics and examples.  This manual is intended to advise … Continue Reading

Covington Updates Investigations Manual for House and Senate Chiefs of Staff

Covington today released an updated version of its manual for Chiefs of Staff to Members of Congress concerning best practices for responding to government investigations of Members and their staff.  Titled “A How-To Guide for Chiefs of Staff,” the manual describes how government investigations unfold and the steps that Chiefs of Staff need to take … 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

“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

Enforcement, Clarity Delayed for FINRA Pay-to-Play and Third Party Solicitation Rules

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Tuesday that it will allow further comment on a pay-to-play rule proposed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). As we discussed previously, if the SEC approves FINRA’s pay-to-play rule, it would clarify that investment advisers are allowed to hire third party solicitors if they are subject to FINRA … Continue Reading

Annual GAO Report on Federal Lobbying Compliance Shows Mixed Enforcement Bag: Fewer Audits, More and Larger Enforcement Penalties

On Friday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its ninth annual report on compliance with the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), covering from mid-2014 through mid-2015.  As in the past, the report is based on random audits of lobbyists’ filings and analysis of enforcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.  We … 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

SEC Issues Fines for Pay-to-Play Violations That Predate Its Pay-to-Play Rule

A $12 million settlement announced last week by the Securities & Exchange Commission suggests that the SEC will aggressively pursue alleged schemes connecting political contributions to government contracts even if the political contributions do not violate its 2010 pay-to-play rule.  According to the settlement order, in 2010, the head of Public Funds at State Street … Continue Reading

SEC Fines Should Prompt Firms Engaged in Political Intelligence To Revisit Insider Trading Policies

In a rare move, the Securities & Exchange Commission has assessed penalties against a political intelligence firm for failing to adopt adequate policies to prevent the flow of inside governmental information to the firm’s clients.  The enforcement action is particularly noteworthy because all the factual allegations took place in 2010, before Congress passed the STOCK … Continue Reading

California Penalizes Campaign, Committee for Coordination Violation

As Super PACs and campaigns continue to edge closer to the legal line between “independence” and “coordination,” it has become common to hear calls for the FEC to take a stricter role in enforcing the law. Yet as recently reported by BNA, the FEC has not found a single violation of its coordination rules in … Continue Reading

Highlights from Wagner; D.C. Circuit Upholds Contributions Restrictions But Limits Ruling

The Wagner case, decided today by the D.C. Circuit, is important because of its analysis of the constitutionality of federal campaign contribution restrictions and, by extension, of pay-to-play laws generally. Covington has been monitoring this case since the district court decision in 2012, to the argument before the D.C. Circuit in 2013, and the decision … Continue Reading

The SEC & Big Data

In our discussion of the Securities & Exchange Commission’s (SEC) actions over the past year, we described how the SEC is ramping up enforcement of its pay-to-play restrictions.  We also pointed out an acknowledgment by an agency enforcement official that the agency is “actively looking” for violations and that the agency does its own “surveillance.” What kind … Continue Reading

Ethics Enforcement in the 114th Congress

The notion that the House and Senate Ethics Committees are inactive bodies, often implied in media coverage, is far from the truth. During the previous Congress, the House Ethics Committee issued more than 900 formal advisory opinions and addressed more than 40,000 informal requests for guidance.  In the first half of the 113th Congress alone, … Continue Reading

FEC Issues Zero Tolerance Decision on Foreign National Contributions

In a little noticed decision earlier this month, the FEC announced the settlement of an enforcement case that sets a compliance standard that few companies may currently meet.  FEC ADR Case 708 (Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. PAC).  The outcome is even more surprising because the case involved a single errant donor the company brought … Continue Reading
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