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Political Law Blog

Welcome to the Holland & Knight Political Law Blog, featuring news and analysis related to federal and state campaign finance, ethics and lobbying disclosure laws, as well as Congressional gift and travel rules. We provide a regular review of happenings at the Federal Election Commission and analysis of a variety of federal and state topics of interest to our readers.

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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General in September 2016 published an audit report regarding compliance and enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
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Last month, a Washington consultant providing political intelligence was convicted of stealing secrets from the government and using it for insider trading. The consultant, who had worked at several Washington, D.C. based firms, was charged with obtaining from an employee of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) confidential and nonpublic information he then sold to hedge fund portfolio managers who used it make or recommend profitable stock trades in advance of the information's public release.
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The New Hampshire Department of Justice has recently issued critical guidance for any campaign, corporation or individual that engages in political activity in the state. As in many states, New Hampshire's Campaign Finance System bifurcates responsibility between the State's Secretary of State, who is responsible for implementing the state's disclosure system, and the state's Department of Justice, which enforces the underlying campaign finance statutes.
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June 12, 2018
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The number of persons and entities registering with the Department of Justice (DOJ) as foreign agents under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) is on the rise. According to DOJ FARA Registration Unit, the number of new primary registrations had grown from 69 in 2016 to 102 in 2017.
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A relatively minor provision contained in last year's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may have a big impact on Trade Associations that lobby local and tribal governments. Trade Associations should ensure that their annual estimate of their lobbying expenses fully accounts for all of their work related to the passage of legislation at the federal, state and (now) the local level.
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April 26, 2018
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The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia recently charged a former federal executive branch official with violating post-employment restrictions. The former official is accused of violating a life-time ban imposed by the Federal conflict of interest statute (2 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1)(a)(1)) by representing a private party in the same matter in which the official had participated personally and substantially as a federal official.
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On Jan. 17, 2018, the House Judiciary Committee reported out H.R. 4170, the Disclosing Foreign Influence Act. An identical bill has been introduced in the Senate.
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January 23, 2018
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The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (NDAA), signed into law on Dec. 12, 2017, imposes new lobbying restrictions on former military officers grade O-7 and higher and civilians of the same grade equivalents (Executive Schedule Level V and higher) at the Department of Defense (DoD). These new restrictions apply in addition to existing post-employment restrictions and Executive Order 13770.
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January 23, 2018
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In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Speaker of the House could not exclude a duly-elected candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. In Powell vs. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486 (1969), the Supreme Court ruled that the House's Constitutional authority to judge the qualifications of its own members was post facto and could only be exercised via expulsion after a 2/3rd affirmative vote.
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December 12, 2017
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Recent news about questionable conduct, both pre- and post-election, has resulted in an increased focus on the internal process for Congressional oversight and discipline.
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November 27, 2017
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With disclosure issues currently receiving significant attention within the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Congress considering changes to the relationship between the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended (FARA) and the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, as amended (LDA), now is a good time to review your internal disclosure compliance programs.
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The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, as amended (LDA), is a federal lobbying statute administered by Congress that applies to legislative and executive branch contacts. The LDA does not apply to state or local lobbying. The LDA requires registration and then disclosure of certain lobbying activities, including the issues lobbied, individual lobbyists, and lobbying costs. LDA violations are subject to fines of up to $200,000 per violation and, in some cases, up to 5 years in prison. The LDA is a companion statute to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended (FARA).
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On October 31, 2017, Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced S. 2039, the Disclosing Foreign Influence Act. An identical bill, H.R. 4170, was introduced in the House by Congressman Mike Johnson, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. These proposed bills would remove the current exemption under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended (FARA), for registrants properly disclosing under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, as amended (LDA).
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November 16, 2017
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Last night was an almost unprecedented night for Democrats in Virginia, and a shock to Republicans in the state and nationally. While results remain preliminary, it appears clear that Democrats made a clean sweep of the statewide offices, and, somewhat shockingly, may actually have tied, or taken outright control, of the Virginia House of Delegates.
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November 8, 2017
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With tax-reform on everyone’s radar, Trade Associations and other advocacy groups operating as business leagues should be aware that the most recent proposals released by the House Committee on Ways and Means might impact the deductibility of expenses that are intended to local councils or similar governing bodies, including tribal governments.
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November 2, 2017
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On April 25, the Senate Finance Committee approved a waiver which was included in the FY17 Omnibus Appropriations bill (H.R. 244), which passed the House and Senate on May 4, 2017, and was signed into law on May 5, 2017.
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May 8, 2017
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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed a substantially pared-back version of his Public Integrity Act of 2017, which was passed by the Maryland House and Senate after extensive amendment during the prior week. This new legislation follows a year of seemingly never-ending ethics and criminal investigations in the state, but the new law's impact on day-to-day log rolling in Annapolis is likely to be far less invasive than if Governor Hogan's original proposal had been adopted.
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April 20, 2017
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While many are familiar with the federal government's myriad post-employment restrictions, less well known are pre-employment restrictions.
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April 5, 2017
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Thinking of hiring a former federal government official? You should be aware of the post-employment rules and restrictions before doing so.
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With year-end Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings now submitted and the 2018 election season already underway, federal Political Action Committee (PAC) managers now have the opportunity to reassess efforts to ensuring continuing compliance with federal campaign finance laws.
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February 1, 2017
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