Campaign Finance and Election Law
Myriad laws and regulations govern the financing of U.S. elections, including complex prohibitions and limitations on who may give, how much may be given, detailed filing and disclosure requirements, and other conditions. While the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United presents opportunities for businesses and other organizations seeking to participate more directly in electoral politics, it also poses a number of legal compliance and political issues warranting careful attention. And while the Citizens United decision de-regulates campaign activity to some extent, there has been a seeming explosion in state, county and municipal “pay-to-play” laws in recent years. These laws, which regulate political activity by companies doing business with governmental entities, along with federal rules adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission for those persons subject to their regulation, carry serious penalties for non-compliance and impose an additional regulatory dimension requiring careful legal analysis and planning for clients who are contemplating political activity.
In a political environment driven by 24-hour news and exacting public scrutiny, the ability to respond quickly to allegations is imperative. Because of our individual and collective expertise in campaign finance and election law, we are able to represent clients in an effective and timely manner. Indeed, we have served as counsel to the most senior members of congressional leadership and as counsel to presidential campaigns. Our current and former political clients include political party committees, federal candidates and campaign committees, political action committees (PACs), super PACs and other nonprofits engaging in political activity. These are in addition to the numerous corporations and trade associations we advise on a regular basis.
Our work includes representations before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and DOJ, as well as state, county and local election authorities. In addition, we advise clients on ballot access and other election law issues and help clients prepare and file their campaign reports.
We have significant experience in state and federal ethics-related rules, laws and regulations, including the Ethics in Government Act (EGA), the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA).
Lawyers in our Government Investigations and White Collar Litigation Department regularly advise government officials, candidates and campaign committees, political action committees, corporations, small businesses, nonprofits and others. We represent clients before the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate ethics committees, the Office of Congressional Ethics, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and state ethics commissions. We also help clients navigate recusal and conflict of interest issues, as well as personal financial disclosure reports.
Lobbying Law Compliance and Business Counsel
In 2007, the passage of HLOGA marked a sea change in the legal landscape for lobbyists and the businesses that employ them. HLOGA not only expanded these businesses’ lobbying disclosure requirements, it also substantially increased penalties for failing to comply. For the first time, House and Senate gift and travel rules applied outside of Congress.
McGuireWoods is well versed in this complex area of the law. We represent top government relations firms, corporations and trade associations on legal issues relating to lobbying. We also help clients comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). One of our lawyers tackles difficult questions regarding government ethics, lobbying and related compliance matters in a weekly column published in Roll Call, a publication widely read by members of Congress and staff.
In addition to federal law, virtually every state and an increasing number of counties and municipalities have adopted state/local lobbying laws. Some of these laws, in addition to requiring registration and periodic reporting by lobbyists and their clients/employers, impose additional legal restrictions on political contributions and gifts by such persons. Companies and trade associations with multi-jurisdictional government affairs programs therefore must be aware of when their activity triggers a state/local lobbying law and develop a mechanism to quickly adapt to any applicable requirements or restrictions. Because our lawyers routinely advise clients in these matters, we are well positioned to help clients and provide them with timely, cost-effective advice in this constantly changing area of the law.
Our extensive background provides an array of benefits to our clients. We regularly develop and implement formal internal compliance procedures to prevent client issues from arising. We offer employee-training sessions tailored to the specific needs of each client and to reduce the risk of legal liability. These programs not only ensure a knowledgeable workforce, but also help businesses demonstrate their commitment to compliance.
McGuireWoods has held many relevant seminars on lobbying rules, including a recent panel conducted jointly by one of our lawyers and senior counsel from the House and Senate ethics committees.
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
As U.S. companies continue to expand their sales and business globally, compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and other anti-corruption measures become an increasing concern. The fines and other penalties for violating the FCPA are severe and can lead to costly litigation. Our lawyers advise clients on compliance with the FCPA, reviewing corporate policies, conducting training sessions and preparing training materials. They also conduct internal investigations when clients suspect a violation may have occurred and audit client compliance programs for effectiveness.
Our lawyers help clients respond to a wide range of political investigations. While our representations have often involved investigations by congressional committees, we have also represented clients in criminal investigations arising from interactions with Congress and other government officials. These clients have included members of Congress and staff, as well as Fortune 500 companies and private individuals.
In each of these matters, we have teamed with lobbying and public relations professionals at our public policy affiliate, McGuireWoods Consulting, whose team members provide invaluable guidance in forming a strong government relations team. In addition to taking clients’ messages to Washington, we also help clients protect their public images — a potentially daunting challenge when faced with the public scrutiny that often accompanies a political investigation.
Even in the absence of an actual investigation, we advise clients regarding ethics and legal issues affecting members of Congress, congressional employees, lobbyists, and other businesses that interact with Congress.
Strategic Counsel and Crisis Management
Given the attention of media outlets and their investigative units, business entities and government officials need representation that recognizes and responds to a broad spectrum of immediate and strategic legal, ethical and media requirements. Our team has played a key role helping clients address some of the most-high profile political developments of the last decade.
Investigations often involve parallel proceedings. Clients may be subjected to their own internal audits, regulatory or administrative scrutiny, congressional hearings, state attorney general probes, grand jury investigations, and an onslaught of questions from the media — often simultaneously. Our clients seek strategic counsel to manage crises, and they require reliable public messaging and analysis that can be disseminated quickly and clearly.