Tag Archives: enforcement

2016 GAO Annual Lobbying Disclosure Act Compliance Report Issued

On Friday, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released its tenth annual report on compliance with and enforcement of the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act (“LDA”).  The report summarizes the results of GAO’s random audits of lobbyists’ quarterly LD-2 activity reports and semi-annual LD-203 contribution reports, and provides a snapshot of the current enforcement environment. There are a … Continue Reading

Have We Reached A FARA “Tipping Point”?

The New York Times, earlier this month, reported that “secret ledgers” in Ukraine show $12.7 million in cash payments designated for former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from Ukraine’s pro-Russian political party. Days later, the Associated Press reported that Manafort helped the pro-Russian party “secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying … 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

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

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

The SEC Pay-to-Play Rule Year in Review

When the history of the Securities & Exchange Commission’s pay-to-play rule is written, 2014 could be the inflection point.  Developments this year suggest two dramatically different paths for the rule in the years to come: either the rule will unravel from court challenges or it will become an increasingly prominent enforcement weapon in the SEC’s … Continue Reading

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

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

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

Attend It Like Beckham: Celebrity Cleared of Lobbying Violations from Miami “Meet-and-Greets”

Celebrities often use their star power to shine a light on otherwise overlooked issues.  Soccer star David Beckham has inadvertently used his celebrity status to highlight a trap for the famous and non-famous alike — local lobbying regulations.  Last Wednesday, The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust cleared “Becks” of violating the county’s lobbying … 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
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