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FCC Issues “Enforcement Advisory” Warning Political Campaigns and Promoters Against Robocall Abuse

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau issued an advisory reminding political campaigns about the restrictions placed on the use of autodialed calls, prerecorded calls, and text messages by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and the FCC’s corresponding rules.  The Enforcement Bureau warns that it is “closely monitoring this space” and will “rigorously enforce … Continue Reading

Congressional Ethics Office Refers Alleged Unregistered Lobbyist to DOJ

For several years, we have been warning clients and others that it was only a matter of time before we would see criminal referrals against lobbyists who fail to register under the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act (“LDA”).  Until now, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has focused exclusively — and rarely — on … Continue Reading

FEC Dismisses Challenge to Use of Trade Association Dues for Independent Expenditures

An FEC enforcement action recently made public may be of interest to organizations that use members’ dues for political activities.  In a complaint to the FEC, a Massachusetts realtor claimed the National Association of Realtors and its state and local affiliates were forcing her into paying for their political activities.   The realtor’s local affiliate required … Continue Reading

Two More Public Relations Firms Trip Over the Foreign Agents Registration Act

Two public relations firms have filed documents with the Department of Justice revealing that they provided public relations and media services in the United States for the government of Ecuador without being registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), as that law requires.  These firms are the latest in a long string of law … Continue Reading

SEC Announces Major Fines In First Pay-to-Play Enforcement Case

The Securities & Exchange Commission hit a Philadelphia-area private equity firm today with a major penalty, in the SEC’s first case involving alleged violations of its 2010 “pay-to-play” rules.  More enforcement actions may be coming. The SEC pay-to-play rules were adopted to prevent, among other things, executives of investment firms from making political contributions in … Continue Reading

2013 GAO Lobbying Disclosure Report Shows Challenges in Compliance, Recordkeeping

Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its 2013 report on compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA), summarizing the audits of 104 lobbyist reports and information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. We see several trends in this year’s report.  First, registrants are reporting more difficulties complying … Continue Reading

FCC Fines Company $2.9 Million for Political Robocalls to Cell Phones

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to fine Dialing Services, LLC, nearly $3 million for making illegal “robocalls” to cell phones.  The FCC has specific rules for automatic telephone dialing systems, also known as “autodialers,” that have the capacity to produce, store, and dial telephone numbers using a random or sequential number generator.  … Continue Reading

Federal Judge Finally Tosses Aside Limits on Contributions to New York Super PACs

Super PACs in the Empire State and in the Big Apple are about to become more “super.”  Today, a New York federal court finally (albeit begrudgingly) struck down a state law that effectively capped contributions to state Super PACs at no more than $150,000.  Prior to today’s ruling, New York had been one of a … Continue Reading

In Chevron Case, FEC Brings Clarity to the Federal Contractor Ban and Super PACs

The rules on corporate contributions to Super PACs were made clearer today when the Federal Election Commission (FEC) released its finding that Chevron Corporation’s $2.5 million contribution in 2012 to the Congressional Leadership Fund (a Super PAC) had not violated the bar on government contractors making contributions in federal elections. Public Citizen and several environmental … Continue Reading

FEC has said little about earmarking rule discussed in McCutcheon

While McCutcheon concluded the government’s anti-circumvention rationale was too speculative and attenuated to justify the biennial aggregate limits, the Court did discuss “multiple alternatives available” to the government that would serve this interest while still satisfying the First Amendment.  One such suggestion involved “earmarking” rules—which bar donors from trying to circumvent the base limits by … Continue Reading

Will States Ignore the Supreme Court’s Coming McCutcheon Decision?

The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon, in McCutcheon v. FEC, on whether the Federal Election Campaign Act’s biennial aggregate limits on individual political contributions are constitutionality permissible.  Many have argued that, if the Supreme Court strikes down the federal limits, aggregate limits imposed by state law will likewise be tossed aside.  That may … Continue Reading

Contractors Handed 4-Year Ban Under New Jersey Township’s Pay-to-Play Law

Medford, New Jersey recently disqualified five would-be city contractors from receiving municipal contracts until 2017 for allegedly making political contributions in violation of the Township’s pay-to-play ordinance. The ordinance, adopted in 2012, imposes an automatic four-year bar on contracting with a company that contributes to candidates or committees in excess of the law’s per-recipient or … Continue Reading

Connecticut Pay-to-Play Law Does Not Bar Giving to a State Party’s Federal Account

Connecticut’s campaign finance regulator, the State Elections Enforcement Commission (“SEEC”) recently released an important advisory opinion that made clear that a state contractor that is otherwise barred from giving to a state political party under Connecticut’s pay-to-play law can give to the party’s federal account, a point SEEC staff had previously addressed.  However, the state … Continue Reading

Record-Setting Enforcement by California’s Campaign Finance Regulator

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is more aggressive than ever and is employing new tactics.  The FPPC’s recently-released end-of-year report detailing enforcement activities in 2013 highlights some interesting statistics that should be on the radar of every company doing business in California. Prosecutions of both “serious campaign cases” and lobbying violations were both “at … Continue Reading

Covington Releases New Data on FARA Audits Conducted by the Department of Justice

Covington & Burling LLP today released new data showing that the Department of Justice has maintained an increased level of Foreign Agents Registration Act audits,and settled into a consistent pattern of conducting 15 audits of FARA registrants each fiscal year. In each of the last four years, the Department of Justice’s FARA office has conducted 15 audits of FARA registrants, we reported at Covington’s … Continue Reading

The D’Souza Case and Big Data

The recent indictment of conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza is, in many ways, an unremarkable example of a garden variety “straw donor” prosecution.  The Department of Justice cranks out a steady stream of them.  Even the relatively small dollar amount at issue ($20,000) is not especially unusual. DOJ is aggressive in prosecuting even small reimbursement cases. … Continue Reading

Seventh Circuit Upholds Indiana Statute Regulating Interstate Political Robocalls

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that the application of Indiana’s telemarking statute to interstate political calls was not preempted by federal law.  You can read more details on the case, Patriotic Veterans v. Indiana, on Covington’s Inside Privacy blog.  One important takeaway from the case is that it is always important to … Continue Reading

Lessons From the Reversal of Tom DeLay’s Conviction

For Tom DeLay, yesterday’s Texas Court of Appeals ruling reversing his conviction on money laundering charges (with its accompanying three year prison sentence) probably makes up for the former House Majority Leader’s Dancing with the Stars loss.  The acquittal marks another high-profile defeat for government prosecutors bringing criminal charges predicated on alleged election law violations. … Continue Reading

Major Criminal Penalties Assessed In New Jersey Pay-to-Play Case

Last spring, we reported that the New Jersey Attorney General charged seven executives and shareholders of Birdsall Services Group, an engineering firm, with participating in a massive pay-to-play scheme.  The scheme allegedly involved a multi-year attempt by company executives and major shareholders to evade state level pay-to-play restrictions by making and then reimbursing political contributions … Continue Reading

FBI Sting Results In Prison Sentence for Candidate’s Finance Director

This spring, a jury convicted Robert Braddock, the Finance Director to former Congressional candidate—and former Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives—Christopher Donovan, with conspiring to hide the source of $27,500 in campaign contributions.  According to the indictment, Braddock accepted contributions to the campaign knowing that they had been reimbursed by individuals associated with Connecticut … Continue Reading

Update: Indictment for Zimbabwe Lobbying Adds Foreign Agent Charges

On August 8, 2013, we reported that federal prosecutors in Chicago unsealed a criminal complaint alleging that two men violated U.S. sanctions by lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwe.  In the earlier post, we noted that the defendants’ alleged activities appeared to have also violated federal law related to unregistered foreign agents, and we speculated that … Continue Reading

Federal Prosecutors Continue to Use a Variety of Tools for Foreign Lobbying

On August 6, federal prosecutors in Chicago unsealed a criminal complaint against two men alleged to have worked on behalf of the government of Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe to generate political support in the United States to lift the U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe.  The two men – Prince Asiel Ben Israel and C. Gregory … Continue Reading
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