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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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Preparing for and executing testimony during a legislative hearing or investigation can be a high-stakes, stressful affair. Understanding the rules and customs of legislative investigations and other hearings is essential if organizations want to better position themselves to advance their policy goals and minimize legal or reputational fallout.


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On Feb. 7, 2019, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) increased certain federal campaign contribution limits.
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February 12, 2019
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Just a month into the 116th Congress, congressional investigations are already proving to be a major focus of both the House of Representatives and Senate. As we noted last November, the oversight agenda will focus in part on ethics-related matters. But a vast array of other topics will be under investigation as well - with Democrats in control of the House for the first time in eight years, and oversight-minded Chairman Charles Grassley leading the Senate Finance Committee, congressional investigations are likely to span across numerous industries and issues.
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February 4, 2019
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On Jan. 24, 2019, a Grand Jury for the District of Columbia issued a seven-count indictment charging a political operative with Obstruction of an Official Proceeding, False Statements, and Witness Tampering in connection with his testimony before a Congressional Committee and related communications.
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The Department of Justice announced on Jan. 17, 2019, that it had reached a settlement with a law firm over the failure to properly register and report under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
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H.R. 1, the first bill introduced by the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, focuses largely on reforms to the political process, including changes to the redistricting process, structural reform for the Federal Election Commission, and an emphasis on anti-corruption and ethics.
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When interacting with the federal government, including the legislative branch, it is essential that all statements, whether written or verbal, be completely truthful. This is the case when providing testimony and also when submitting documents to Congress, including Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) filings, private sponsor travel certifications, and financial disclosure forms.
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As control of the U.S. House of Representatives shifts to Democrats during the next Congress and we enter the presidential election cycle, now is a good time for entities that regularly interact with the federal government to assess their government affairs activities – both internal and external – to ensure effectiveness and compliance with federal, state, and local campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws.
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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.
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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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June 26, 2018
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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 Agents 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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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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