November 14, 2018

House Democrats Ethics Oversight Agenda

Holland & Knight Political Law Blog
Christopher DeLacy | Charles E. Borden | John S. Irving IV | Samuel Brown

When the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3, 2019, Democrats will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in eight years and will gain the ability to launch a new wave of congressional investigations and oversight. We expect a major focus of these investigations to be issues related to ethics, conflicts of interest, campaign contributions and corruption. In particular, Democratic leaders have already indicated interest in exploring the following topics:

  • Outside business activities of administration officials and their families, including the extent to which private companies with which officials (or their families) do business may also have matters before the administration
  • Administration officials' business dealings with foreign governments and foreign government instrumentalities, and the extent to which such dealings have complied with the Foreign Emoluments clause
  • The role of non-governmental employees and unregistered lobbyists or foreign agents in shaping government policy
  • Compliance of senior Trump Administration officials with federal ethics laws, including the extent to which such officials' dealings with private parties implicates conflict of interest, misuse of official position and gift and entertainment rules
  • Contributions to charitable organizations and Super PACs that are perceived as having links to the administration, as well as donations to the inaugural committee

While the primary focus of these ethics-related investigations will be the administration itself, the new wave of congressional investigations and oversight will almost certainly also entangle private individuals and businesses. Companies that are swept up in investigations and oversight can expect significant expense, reputational scrutiny, and the potential for legal exposure.

Companies should use the time before the new Congress begins in January to assess their exposure and mitigate potential risks associated with congressional investigations and oversight. In particular, companies should consider taking the following steps:

  • Review your company's business dealings with the Trump Administration, its officials and their families.
  • Assess your firm's government affairs strategy, and the extent to which it may have relied on unregistered lobbyists and other informal influencers.
  • Determine whether your company or any executives or employees made contributions to charitable organizations, 501(c)(4) entities, or Super PACs affiliated with Administration officials, or to the inaugural committee.

Holland & Knight is well suited to handle ethics-related investigations and collateral matters. Our Political Law practice is seamlessly integrated with our Congressional Investigations team, and our Political Law team members have deep experience with federal ethics and conflict-of-interest rules, campaign finance and lobbying regulation, the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses, and related federal regimes.

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