Political Law

We can help with your political law needs at every step of the process. Whether you are an old hand, a newcomer who needs to understand what the rules are, or someone who is facing an investigation, we can help.

We make participating in the government as simple as possible. We strive to give clients comfort in knowing they are complying with election and lobbying laws, while doing an effective job of making their views and needs known to legislators and agency decision makers.

You want to be involved in the political process—or maybe you already are—by lobbying, making political contributions, issuing endorsements, generating grass-roots communications, or influencing the nomination process for yourself or someone else. Whether you are planning a charitable event with a member of Congress; starting a political action committee (PAC), advocacy group, or coalition; taking a staffer to lunch; or making a campaign contribution; there are many rules that restrict what you can do, how you can do it, and how you can pay for it. 

We help clients navigate this minefield to accomplish their goals at the federal, state, and local levels. When it comes to designing lobbying and electoral strategy, Venable will work with you to make sure the options you choose won't land you in trouble—or even in the press.

 

Our Team and Our Approach

We have been on both sides of the table, serving as PAC treasurers, lobbyists, in-house counsel, and more. Our team also includes a former FEC general counsel. Our broad-based experience allows us to draw upon a real-world understanding of the way enforcement officials perceive different activities.

Our attorneys provide clients with creative solutions to their needs. Some clients need high-level advice, and others prefer an ongoing and close working relationship throughout their political activities. In either case, we provide prompt and thorough advice to assist with day-to-day needs.

State and Federal Laws

Our clients interact not only with the federal government, but also with state and local governments. We have developed resources for lobbying, ethics, and campaign finance laws at all levels of government, so that we can assist clients across the country. Whether you are active in one or two states or everywhere, we can quickly provide the answers you need.

Campaign Finance Law

Electing and retaining officials who understand your positions is essential. How you get involved in that process is complicated. State and federal laws limit who can give, how much they can give, and how a campaign contribution has to be reported. It's not just a question of asking, "How do I start a PAC?" You must also ask such questions as "What are my options?" "How can we raise the money?" "How can we spend it?" "What can my employees do to help?" "Can I ask my employees for contributions?" and "Can I host a fundraiser at the office?" We can help answer all of these questions and more. Our attorneys have counseled some of the largest PACs in the country and small startup PACs and have provided extensive advice on state and local giving.

Lobbying Disclosure

If you interact with the government on a regular basis—or even on less than a regular basis—you are subject to registration and reporting requirements at the federal, state, and local levels. We have advised clients about these rules in all 50 states, in a number of local jurisdictions, and, of course, at the federal level. Reporting obligations can be complicated, but we help design tracking systems, calendars, and other compliance tools to keep things straight.

Gift and Ethics Rules

Whether it be a casual lunch with a legislator's staff member, hosting an event at a national political convention, or having a legislator attend an annual conference or board meeting, anytime something of value is given to public officials, there are likely rules restricting how much can be given, when it can be given, and who must report the gift. Our attorneys include former executive branch ethics officers and former legislative staffers, so they understand the rules from both sides.

Nominations

Whether you are considering a high-level position with the government or are interested in supporting or opposing such a nomination, we can help. Our attorneys have shepherded a number of individuals through the nomination and confirmation process. This includes completing financial disclosure forms and assisting with background reviews, with an eye for what is and isn't important, and preparing for committee hearings.

Foreign Agents Registration Act

Foreign governments and political parties lobby the U.S. government every day. If they use private lobbyists—or agents—to conduct meetings or disseminate publicity information, then the agents must register with and report to the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. Unlike domestic lobbying disclosure, the Foreign Agents Registration Act involves complicated and detailed disclosures and ongoing filing of "propaganda" materials.

Practice Focus

  • Campaign finance advice
  • PAC formation
  • PAC administration
  • Lobbying disclosure
  • Tax implications of political activity
  • Ethics and gift rules
  • Federal, state, and local political laws
  • Foreign Agents Registration Act
  • Confirmation of nominees
  • Coalition formation
  • Corporate political activity
  • Event structuring and planning
  • Contribution limits and prohibitions
  • Political activities funding

What We Do

  • Advice on compliance and risks
  • Defense in civil and criminal investigations
  • Representation in audits
  • Planning events for compliance
  • 50-state compliance
  • Developing policies and procedures for lobbying and political activity
  • Political compliance reviews and audits

Client Focus

  • Businesses
  • Trade associations 
  • Political action committees
  • Advocacy organizations
  • 527 committees
  • Individuals
  • Charities
  • Nonprofits 
  • Lobbying firms 

Government Experience
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Attorneys with extensive political and practical experience who have served as

  • Former FEC general counsel
  • Agency ethics officials
  • Campaign staff
  • Lobbyists
  • Nonprofit management
  • Treasurers of political action committees
  • Assistant Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission
  • Assistant Attorney General, Civil Litigation Division, Office of the Maryland Attorney General
  • Associate Director, Division of Enforcement, Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • General Counsel, Federal Election Commission
  • Presidential Management Fellow, Federal Election Commission
  • Special Counsel, Office of Commissioner Ann M. Ravel, Federal Election Commission
  • Attorney, Office of General Counsel, Federal Election Commission
  • Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legislative Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legislative Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legislative Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Associate Deputy Attorney General, Office of the Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Counsel, The Senate of Maryland, Judicial Proceedings Committee
  • Chief of Staff and Counsel, The Senate of Maryland, Office of Senator Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, Jr.
  • Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia
  • Special Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • Presidential Management Fellow, United States Department of Education
  • Staff member, United States House of Representatives, House Appropriations Committee
  • Legislative Director, United States House of Representatives, Office of Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
  • Field Representative, United States House of Representatives, Office of Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH)
  • Legislative Aide, United States Senate, Office of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Experience
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Venable offers extensive experience when it comes to compliance, defense of investigations and enforcement actions and policy making in the area of political law. Our attorneys have:

  • Successfully defended one of the nation's largest companies in an FEC investigation
  • Assisted America's Community Bankers in a petition for rulemaking before the FEC in which the FEC reversed a 30-year-old rule prohibiting payroll deduction for trade association PACs
  • Counseled Fortune 50 companies and major trade associations on lobbying disclosure and ethics rule compliance
  • Created PACs and provided ongoing compliance advice for companies and trade associations
  • Established and counseled multi-million-dollar super PACs, including two of the first super PACs formed to support presidential candidates
  • Counseled global media companies about gifts to foreign embassies and to U.S. embassies abroad, taking into consideration both U.S. laws and foreign laws that impacted the gifts
  • Provided counsel and created the legal structure to facilitate the creation of a U.S. PAC by a U.S. subsidiary of a foreign corporation to ensure compliance with U.S. election laws
  • Counseled the U.S. subsidiary of a foreign company regarding PAC and lobbying disclosures, and assisted the company in understanding U.S. lobbying and campaign finance rules
  • Counseled a U.S. subsidiary of an international automotive company about U.S. lobbying disclosure rules and helped to simplify its reporting operations
  • Counseled an international energy company headquartered overseas with respect to federal, state, and local lobbying, campaign finance, and gift rules compliance

Recognition
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Highly ranked in Chambers USA, Political Law, National, 2017