Former Federal Election Commission General Counsel and Leading Political Law Attorney Lawrence Norton Joins Venable

4 min

Norton served as FEC’s top lawyer during the passage of McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation

WASHINGTON, DC (May 7, 2012) – Adding one of the country’s leading authorities on political law to its government affairs bench, Venable LLP announced that Lawrence Norton, formerly General Counsel at the Federal Election Commission, has joined the firm as a partner and co-chair of its Political Law practice group in Washington, DC.  Mr. Norton was previously with the Washington office of Womble Carlyle.

Mr. Norton is a key figure in the political law field, advising on federal and state campaign finance laws, lobbying rules and governmental ethics. He served as FEC General Counsel from 2001-2007, playing a pivotal role in the implementation of the ground-breaking Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 (popularly known as McCain-Feingold).

In private practice, Mr. Norton advises public and private companies, nonprofits, and trade associations on a wide range of political and election law issues, including establishing and operating federal and state PACs, Super-PACs, 527 groups, and issue advocacy organizations, and their use of traditional and social media. He regularly helps organizations design and implement compliance programs and employee training on best practices with regard to campaign contributions and participation.

Mr. Norton also conducts internal investigations, advising companies and associations on responding properly to government audits and law enforcement probes.  He counsels on compliance audits of PACs and other political activity, lobbying registration and disclosure, and policies and procedures regarding gifts to public officials. He has been active in advising on “pay-to-play” laws, which restrict political contributions by companies and principals doing business with the government.

Before entering private practice, Mr. Norton worked in government for 25 years. Prior to his tenure at the FEC, he served as Associate Director in the Division of Enforcement at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and at the Federal Trade Commission, as Assistant Director at the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Prior to joining the federal government, Mr. Norton served as a Maryland Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Litigation Division. He began his legal career at Venable, first joining the firm as a litigation associate in 1983.

“Larry Norton is one of the leading practitioners of political and campaign finance law – his arrival couldn’t be better timed, as the country is revving up for the 2012 presidential election season,” said Brock Landry, chair of Venable’s Government Division. “Larry knows the myriad ways in which companies and organizations can misstep when engaging with public officials and candidates in this complex and nuanced area.  Add that extensive knowledge base to his experience in enforcement at the FTC and CFTC and you have an unmatched set of credentials for counseling clients on the most sensitive election compliance issues.”

Venable’s political law practice is nationally recognized in Chambers USA. Its clients include numerous Fortune 500 companies in all sectors of the economy, prominent trade and professional associations, several “Super PACs,” lobbying firms, and leading advocacy organizations.

Ronald Jacobs, who co-chairs the Political Law practice, said of Mr. Norton’s arrival:  “Campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, and gift and ethics rules  have become extremely important for businesses and organizations, including multinationals with operations in the U.S., that interact with federal, state, and local governments.  Many organizations are still grappling with fallout from the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. Having someone who knows the FEC from the inside and who has experience counseling clients and guiding them through the political process is important to our growing political law practice and I can think of no one more qualified to contribute to our group than Larry.”

“Very few companies today are indifferent to how government operates or how power is obtained,” Mr. Norton said. “Businesses need to interact with public officials, with regulators and lawmakers. At the same time, compliance for individuals and companies acting in a political context has become infinitely more stringent.  With federal, state and local election laws continually changing, it is imperative that companies be well informed about what they can and can’t do when it comes to political activity and especially political spending. Venable is a perfect platform to keep my clients on top of the issues and prepare for anything they may face.”

He added, “Venable is a true leader in political law, and has long maintained one of the nation’s best legislative and regulatory groups. Plus, the firm boasts a number of other top-tier practices that complement political law work, including its highly respected nonprofit, tax, white collar and government contracts groups. It’s great to be rejoining Venable.”

Mr. Norton received his J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law (1983) and his B.A. from the University of Maryland (1980).

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Note: An American Lawyer Global 100 law firm, Venable serves corporate, institutional, governmental, nonprofit and individual clients throughout the U.S. and around the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with offices in California, Maryland, New York and Virginia, Venable LLP lawyers and legislative advisors serve the needs of our domestic and global clients in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property, regulatory, and government affairs.