"I call them when I have a tough problem that needs to be solved in a creative and practical manner. And when it's urgent, they are always willing to help." Client Commentary, Chambers USA

Federal, state, and local laws that govern political activities are increasingly numerous and complex. Inappropriate or illegal political activity can hinder work on important policy issues, impact a corporation's bottom line, or undermine a promising candidacy. Caplin & Drysdale's bipartisan Political Law group provides businesses, trade associations, nonprofits, candidates, and activists with timely, concise counsel on the high-stakes legal issues that involve "pay-to-play" restrictions, lobbying regulations, campaign finance laws, and ethics rules. Visit our blog site www.FARA.us.

Areas of Focus

Responding to Political Law Investigations, Audits, and Complaints

In recent years, the Federal Election Commission ("FEC"), the Department of Justice ("DOJ"), U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics, House Committee on Ethics, Office of Congressional Ethics ("OCE"), and state regulators have brought a considerable number of criminal and civil political-law cases and investigations against government officials, corporations, nonprofit advocacy groups, and their officers. Full-scale audits of political contributions and lobbying activities are also common. These actions may result in significant fines, reputational injuries and even jail sentences. In such instances, the need for sophisticated expertise and experience in the myriad details of campaign finance, lobbying, "pay-to-play," and ethics laws and enforcement proceedings is immediate.  

Lawyers in Caplin & Drysdale's Political Law Group regularly defend individuals and organizations in such proceedings. Their combined experience in government and private practice make them uniquely qualified to represent clients in enforcement actions involving political activity. Call the firm's Political Law group when:

    • Responding to a campaign-finance complaint, inquiry, audit, or request for information by the FEC, the IRS, the DOJ, OCE, Congressional ethics committee, or a state regulator;
    • Preparing for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit of federal lobbying activities;
    • Negotiating with government entities on settlement agreements;
    • Conducting internal investigations related to political activities;
    • Replying to government inquiries, subpoenas, and summonses; and
    • Developing coordinated press and legal defense strategies on political-law matters.

Establishing and Maintaining Political Organizations

Recent U.S. Supreme Court and federal appellate court decisions, as well as pending federal legislation, present a shifting legal landscape for all politically active corporations, organizations, and individuals. Strict compliance with these ever-changing rules is a must in order to avoid severe civil and criminal penalties in a realm where even an allegation of impropriety can devastate an organization or individual.

Caplin & Drysdale's decades of experience and sophisticated understanding of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and similar state laws is vital to our clients' success in this challenging environment. Call the firm's Political Law group when:

    • Establishing a corporate PAC on the federal or state level;
    • Creating a "Super PAC," 527 organization, or 501(c)(4) entity;
    • Seeking advice on workplace political activity in a corporate or trade association setting;
    • Preparing disclosure reports for the FEC, the IRS, or any state regulatory agency;
    • Conducting internal investigations or audits related to political activities;
    • Holding fundraising events;
    • Merging federal or state PACs with those of another corporation;
    • Seeking Advisory Opinions from federal and state regulators;
    • Making political contributions to federal, state, and local candidates, which can trigger burdensome reporting obligations; and
    • Implementing payroll deduction and charitable incentive programs for PAC contributors.

Advising on the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

Increased scrutiny and enforcement activity by the U.S. Department of Justice concerning the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has given rise to concerns for the regulated community on when and how to comply with this statute, as well as increased confusion regarding its relationship to the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). FARA registration and reporting can be complex and impose a heavy administrative burden. Caplin & Drysdale’s Political Law Group has an established practice representing individuals, lobbyists, consulting firms, advocacy groups, public affairs firms, political consultancies, and think tanks in addressing their FARA compliance obligations. Please visit our blog site www.FARA.us for more information.

Illustrations of our work for clients include:

    • Responding to inquiries and document requests from the Department of Justice’s FARA Unit;
    • Resolving government enforcement actions related to FARA compliance;
    • Preparing and submitting retroactive FARA filings;
    • Conducting internal investigations concerning potential FARA issues; and
    • Establishing tailored compliance programs to help lobbying firms, public affairs firms, and political consultancies efficiently manage FARA’s compliance obligations.

Interacting with Officeholders and Sponsoring Officeholder Events

Government ethics rules restrict the nature and amount of gifts, employment offers, event hosting, travel sponsorships and other benefits that private individuals and organizations may confer on public officials. Each of these activities may be restricted where public officials are involved, sometimes in counterintuitive ways. Prospective advice and training are essential for any organization that regularly interacts with government officials. 

Caplin & Drysdale's detailed knowledge of congressional gift and travel rules, Office of Government Ethics regulations, and state ethics provisions assists corporate and nonprofit clients in planning meals, events, and fact-finding trips that promote their organizational goals. Call the firm's Political Law group when:

    • Planning an event attended by federal or state public officials;
    • Organizing a product promotion event attended by government procurement employees;
    • Seeking advice on the Ethics in Government Act or congressional gift rules;
    • Responding to inquiries and complaints by federal, state, and local ethics bodies;
    • Offering employment to current or former government employees;
    • Sponsoring a fact-finding trip to be taken by federal or state public officials; and
    • Developing policies regarding the provision of gifts and meals to public officials.

Contacting Government Officials and Employees

Federal and state government entities impose extensive registration and disclosure requirements on persons who lobby public officials. These requirements apply not only to outside "contract" lobbyists, but also to lobbyist clients and organizations that use internal employees to lobby federal, state, or local governments. Registered individuals and organizations may also be subject to their own disclosure obligations, as well as special restrictions on gifts and political contributions. Failure to satisfy these lobbying rules may result in criminal penalties, civil fines, and negative publicity. 

Caplin & Drysdale advises and trains major corporations and tax-exempt organizations, including charities, social welfare organizations, and trade associations, regarding their obligations under federal and state lobbying regimes. Call the firm's Political Law group when:

    • Monitoring and reporting lobbying activities under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and comparable state laws;
    • Planning contacts with executive branch officials, legislators, and other government personnel;
    • Preparing for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit of federal lobbying activities;
    • Reviewing lobbying disclosure practices in state and local government affairs departments; and
    • Training lobbying personnel on government ethics rules.

Implementing Corporate Compliance Systems

Politics is more important to business than ever, as government regulators assert themselves and public-sector clients present key growth opportunities. At the same time, mistakes made while lobbying, giving campaign contributions, and interacting with public-sector entities are now more costly. For example, an executive's otherwise lawful political contribution may void existing government contracts or wall-off future business opportunities due to new federal and state "pay-to-play" restrictions. And as the New York Times recently observed: "In the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, greater political activism by trade groups and demands by candidates and causes for corporate money, boards are now seeing that their corporate image could be tarnished if these contributions or political activities go awry."

Caplin & Drysdale helps clients establish compliance programs that facilitate adherence to the law and maximize organizational effectiveness. Call the firm's Political Law group when:

    • Seeking advice on "pay-to-play" restrictions issued by the Securities & Exchange Commission and other state entities;
    • Auditing corporate political donations and lobbying activities;
    • Conducting internal investigations related to political activities;
    • Tracking campaign contributions and gifts to federal, state, and local candidates and officeholders;
    • Offering political-law training sessions for executives, staff, and other personnel;
    • Filing comments in ongoing rule-making proceedings;
    • Developing bylaws, handbooks, and organizational policies; and
    • Monitoring and reporting lobbying activities under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and comparable state laws.

  • Matthew T. Sanderson
  • Bryson B. Morgan
  • Trevor Potter
  • Shauna Polk
    Compliance Coordinator
  • Leila D. Carney
  • Arjun N. Ghosh
  • Amanda Reed

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