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California’s New “Social Media DISCLOSE Act” Regulates Social Media Companies, Search Engines, Other Online Advertising Outlets, and Political Advertisers

California’s new “Social Media DISCLOSE Act” takes on the trending topic of online political advertising disclosure. Assuming Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill, then come 2020, social media networks like Twitter and Facebook, as well as Google and similar tools, may face burdensome new obligations related to California political advertising.  Political advertisers themselves will also … Continue Reading

Survey of the Pay-to-Play Laws of the United States

Companies doing business with state and local governments or operating in regulated industries are subject to a dizzying array of “pay-to-play” rules.  These rules effectively prohibit company executives and employees (and in some cases, their family members) from making certain personal political contributions.  Even inadvertent violations can be dangerous:  a single political contribution can, for example, … 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

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

Fight Against Sexual Misconduct Bringing Regulations, Protections for Lobbyists

As sexual abuse, assault, harassment, and other misconduct have dominated national headlines, state capitols and lobbyists have not escaped scrutiny.  Amidst a spate of allegations and member resignations, some state legislatures and ethics commissions are taking action.  While a variety of measures are being considered, including tightening gift rules, it is apparent that lobbyists and … 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

Avoiding State and Local Lobbying Compliance Violations

Corporate legal and compliance departments are usually well aware of the laws regulating lobbying the federal government. Recent news reports, however, indicate that companies have more trouble with state and local lobbying laws. A few features of state and local lobbying make it a tricky blind spot. This increases the risk of failing to properly … 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

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

Virginia Makes Key Adjustments to Law Governing Gifts to Officials, Adds New Lobbyist Gift Notification

Organizations represented by lobbyists in Virginia should be aware of a new law enacted today.  The law eliminates a controversial exception to the state’s $100 limit on lobbyist gifts to legislators and officials, adds a key new exception to that law, and also includes an additional gift notification requirement for lobbyists.  The changes represent Virginia’s … Continue Reading

New Executive Order on Ethics in Missouri Includes Lobbyist Gift Ban, Revolving-Door Provision; Legislature Considering Additional Restrictions

Earlier this month, newly-installed Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens issued Executive Order 2, applying strict ethics rules to executive branch employees in that state.  The order includes a ban on gifts from lobbyists, conflicts of interest rules, and a “revolving door” provision that prohibits employees who leave Greitens’ office from later lobbying his administration.  The state … 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

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

California Approves Strict Rules on Super PAC Coordination

California has existing regulations that define when expenditures by outside groups, including super PACs, are coordinated with candidates and become illegal contributions to those campaigns.  These rules create a presumption of coordination under certain circumstances.  Yesterday, the Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”) approved revisions to its rules on independent expenditures and coordination that expand the … 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

Christie Vetoes Controversial New Jersey Pay-to-Play Provision

Earlier this week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed key aspects of a bill that would have imposed new restrictions on the ability of national and federal political party committees to raise money from Wall Street and financial executives.  The bill, as we have previously discussed, sought to apply the state’s notoriously stringent pay-to-play rules … Continue Reading

New Campaign Finance, Lobbying, and Ethics Laws Take Effect

The New Year brings with it new laws governing campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics. Below we highlight some of the major state and federal laws that took effect on or around January 1. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but highlights some of the most significant changes that are new for 2015.  … Continue Reading

Illinois Governor Signs Executive Order on Ethics

Companies and individuals doing business in Illinois should be aware of an executive order – Executive Order 15-09 – signed this week by Governor Bruce Rauner that, among other things, imposes new limitations on the acceptance of gifts by state employees.  Illinois state employees are generally prohibited by statute from accepting any gift from a “prohibited … Continue Reading

Ethics Rules and Transition Teams: Maryland Weighs In

A recent advisory letter by the Maryland State Ethics Commission should remind those asked to serve on transition teams to be aware of the various state laws that might be triggered by their service.  In the advisory letter, written to a government contractor, the State Ethics Commission concluded that members of the Maryland Governor-Elect’s Transition … Continue Reading

New Arkansas Campaign Finance, Lobbying, and Ethics Laws Take Immediate Effect

Amid the thrill of victory and agony of defeat this Election Day, Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment that will have a major impact on those involved in the political and legislative process there.  While enacting legislation and regulations may bring some additional clarity to the issues, the amendment is effective immediately and brings the … Continue Reading
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