Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP has long understood the importance of compliance with federal and state campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws. Our political law and government ethics practice offers a broad range of services to help clients navigate the often complex and confusing legal and regulatory framework surrounding political activity.
The explosive growth of regulation affecting campaign activity, lobbying and the interaction between the public and elected officials requires individual donors, businesses, nonprofit organizations, trade associations and grassroots groups to carefully consider these myriad regulations and structure their political activities accordingly. Akin Gump’s political law and government ethics practice provides the legal and advisory knowledge and experience necessary to champion our clients’ goals while working within the confines of the complex regulatory scheme governing political activity. Our practice focuses on advising and representing clients on issues related to the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), congressional and executive branch ethics and gift rules, the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the Internal Revenue Code, state and local campaign finance registration and reporting, lobbying registration and related reporting, pay-to-play rules and government inquiries.
Over the last decade, Congress has enacted sweeping campaign finance and ethics legislation, which ultimately expanded the Code of Federal Regulations. Individuals and companies now face considerable restrictions on how they can engage in political activity—previously unregulated activities are now prohibited outright or subject to increased regulation.
In direct response to several high-profile scandals involving Members of Congress, legislation was passed expanding the scope of the LDA and its reporting requirements: altering the frequency of the filings, broadening what is required to be reported and enhancing penalties for failure to comply. The law not only adopted provisions severely restricting gifts to members and employees of Congress, regulating third-party payment of travel and requiring disclosure of earmarks for members of Congress and congressional staff, but also rules regarding the bundling of campaign contributions.
Many states, guided by the federal model, also made substantial changes to their campaign finance laws. These changes include restrictions on political advertisements and corporate political activity. Prompted by scandals involving officials and agencies, many states also adopted pay-to-play rules in an effort to limit improper political contributions in connection with state contracts.
At the federal level, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 is known as the Sarbanes-Oxley of the political world. In addition to increasing the frequency of disclosure of lobbying activities and requiring disclosure of certain political and charitable contributions, the law also requires certification that companies and individuals who are registered under LDA have not violated the rules of Congress regarding gifts and travel. For a company registered under LDA, such a certification brings with it the necessity of having strong policies and procedures in place to avoid violations of the gift rules that can result in civil and criminal penalties.
States have also strengthened their requirements for disclosure of lobbying activities. The requirements for registration and reporting differ from state to state, and, in some cases, cities and localities also require disclosure.
We advise our clients on how to comply with the requirements and how to prepare and file lobbying registration and disclosure reports. Our knowledge and experience ensure that our clients comply with mandated disclosure in an accurate and timely manner and avoid costly penalties.
Campaign Finance Law and Ethics Rules Compliance
We develop comprehensive political and internal compliance programs for our clients that address both federal and state political activity. Our services include:
- establishing and administering political action committees (PACs)
- advising on permissible corporate activity such as interactions with federal and state officials
- representing and defending clients before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and state campaign finance regulatory authorities
- providing strategic advice for maximizing an organization’s political involvement
- ensuring compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
We have significant experience in all facets of federal, state and local campaign finance law, including:
- administering federal and state PACs
- developing innovative PAC fundraising and membership programs for major corporations and trade associations
- preparing, reviewing and filing federal and state campaign finance reports and tax documents
- analyzing PAC employee and member participation
- providing monthly summaries of PAC activity
- representing individuals and organizations in state and federal enforcement proceedings.
We also have extensive experience with federal, state and local laws governing conflicts of interest, gifts to public officials, illegal gratuities and bribery, and we have focused on developing comprehensive corporate compliance and education programs to complement our existing knowledge base. Our practice analyzes state pay-to-play laws and determines the risks and potential conflicts associated with political activities, including whether a business may conduct political activities and still be eligible for state contracts and investment funds.
Our team also conducts internal political compliance audits for companies and associations, covering the full range of their federal and state political activities, to help assess and analyze their legal and compliance practices. We also assist organizations in ensuring compliance with the extensive federal and state lobbying, ethics and campaign laws.
We provide advice to companies and individuals who find their political activities subject to inquiry by various federal and executive branch departments, commissions and agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, FEC, Government Accountability Office, Office of Congressional Ethics and numerous state and local commissions and agencies. We assist clients in responding to requests for information, investigations, document requests or other actions by the government in audits and enforcement proceedings.