Category: Enforcement

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A ‘Little Library’ on the Issues in United States v. Cohen

Below are links to key pleadings and other documents related to United States v. Cohen, in which Michael Cohen, the President’s former private lawyer, pleaded guilty to willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution and making an excessive contribution to the President’s campaign. Also below are links to some of the key court documents in United … Continue Reading

The D’Souza Pardon, Briefly Explained

President Donald J. Trump tweeted that he “[w]ill be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!” Why did the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014 prosecute D’Souza, a prominent political conservative who pleaded guilty to charges that he reimbursed friends for $20,000 in contributions they made … Continue Reading

Major FARA Changes Move Forward in Congress as House Marks Up Bill

On Wednesday, January 17, 2018, the House Judiciary Committee voted 15-6 to report the Disclosing Foreign Influence Act (H.R. 4170) out of committee, taking a major step toward amending the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA). As discussed in an earlier update, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Representative Mike Johnson introduced identical bills … Continue Reading

At Stake in the FEC Debate Over Leadership PACs: More Criminal Enforcement?

In dueling draft advisory opinions to Representative Maxine Waters, the Federal Election Commission is divided over whether “leadership PACs” are subject to the personal use rules. Both drafts agree that FEC rules would not keep Representative Waters’ campaign, PAC or her personally from giving to a foreign candidate. But Draft A warns the Congresswoman that … Continue Reading

Why We Should Expect More Criminal Cases Charging Illegal Coordination Between Campaigns and Super PACs: A Former Prosecutor’s Perspective

Note: An earlier post on Perkins Coie’s In the Arena: Law and Politics Update discussed, from a campaign finance lawyer’s perspective, why the prosecution in United States v. Harber signals future jeopardy for operatives in down-ballot races who coordinate with hastily-formed “super PACs.” This post offers a different angle on the same question from Barak … Continue Reading

VA-11 Coordination Case Is a Wake-Up Call for Down-Ballot Races, Operatives

Last Friday’s sentencing of the manager of a failed Congressional race in Virginia’s 11th District suggests that, if there is to be a wave in the criminal prosecution of the campaign finance laws, it may come toward the bottom of the ticket. Smaller campaigns face the same competitive pressures as presidential campaigns and marquee Senate … Continue Reading

Deception and Disclosure in the Iowa Endorsement-Buying Case

Few face greater peril under the campaign finance and criminal laws than an undisputed bad actor. Yesterday, former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson admitted in a plea agreement that he willfully caused Representative Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign to falsely report payments made to two companies. In fact, Sorenson acknowledged, the campaign paid the companies—who … Continue Reading

FEC Holds Audit Hearing, Debates Advisory Opinion Request

The FEC today held a hearing on an audit staff finding that former Rep. Quico Canseco’s campaign accepted $100,000 in illegal contributions. The Commission also held an open meeting at which it considered an advisory opinion request from Enterprise Holdings, Inc. According to a staff audit report, Rep. Canseco’s 2010 campaign accepted $100,000 in illegal campaign contributions from a Mexican corporation called Caza. Rep. Canseco’s attorney, Chris Gober, argued at the audit hearing that the … Continue Reading

After the Stockman Report, When Should the Congressional Ethics Process Consider FEC Violations?

The report and findings prepared by the Office of Congressional Ethics in its review of Representative Steve Stockman, released yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics, is the latest in a series of reviews in which OCE has recommended investigation of Members over substantive violations of the federal campaign finance laws. The … Continue Reading

DOJ Prosecutes Straw Donor Cases As FEC Enforcement Lags

This week brought two reminders that the Federal Election Commission is not the only government entity with the ability to prosecute violations of the federal campaign finance laws. The Department of Justice, which has jurisdiction over some “knowing and willful” campaign finance violations, obtained two guilty pleas in so-called “straw donor” cases. On Tuesday, conservative … Continue Reading

New Law Brings Major Changes to the FEC’s Administrative Fine Program — and New Challenges for Independent Expenditures

On December 26, President Obama signed into law a bill to extend the Federal Election Commission’s administrative fine program.  The new law broadens the program significantly, in ways that will especially affect those who make independent expenditures. The administrative fine program allows the FEC to collect fines on a streamlined basis, and on fixed schedules, … Continue Reading

A Now-Full FEC Must Confront Issues With its Staff, Rules and Authority

With Commissioner Ann Ravel sworn in on October 25, and Commissioner Lee Goodman on October 23, the Federal Election Commission has a full complement of Commissioners for the first time since February. They face some matters that should be of urgent concern to all, whatever one’s views on campaign finance regulation. For example: 1. Staff. … Continue Reading

Decoding the Dispute Between the FEC and Its Lawyers Over Sharing Information with DOJ

Recent days have seen an extraordinary release of documents by the Federal Election Commission about when its Office of General Counsel (OGC) shares information with the United States Department of Justice. The debate over information sharing, which the Commission is expected to take up soon, is important for many reasons.  It involves the Commission’s compliance … Continue Reading

FEC Reinforces Reporting Requirements for Political Committees

At yesterday’s open meeting, the Federal Election Commission unanimously voted to require increased disclosure on the part of political committees and postponed for the second time what is likely to be a lively debate over the Office of General Counsel’s enforcement manual. Chair Weintraub predicted that at the next public meeting, scheduled for July 11th, … Continue Reading

FEC Postpones Major Decisions, Unanimously Approves Advisory Opinion and Audit Report

In its first open meeting in nearly a month and its first since General Counsel Anthony Herman announced he will be leaving the agency for private practice, the Federal Election Commission made two unanimous decisions and postponed two others for the next public meeting, scheduled to be held two weeks from today. One of the … Continue Reading

FEC Divide on ‘Personal Use’ Rules Shows Potential for Confusion

Two things were notable about MUR 6672, released last week by the Federal Election Commission, which involved the payment of $805.13 by Florida U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis’ campaign to the Royal Order of Jesters for membership dues. The Commission deadlocked on party lines over whether there was reason to believe that Representative Bilirakis illegally converted … Continue Reading

Can ‘Bright Lines’ Improve IRS Performance on Political Activity?

In the wake of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)’s report on the Internal Revenue Service, there will be much discussion of where the system for reviewing tax-exempt applications went awry. The IRS’s actions, and the TIGTA report, raise key questions about IRS transparency. Any reforms should include a dramatic improvement in the … Continue Reading

The Bachmann Announcement and the Special Challenges of Publicly-Charged Investigations

Today, Representative Bachmann announced that she would not seek re-election in 2014 to Congress.  In a video statement, she denied that her decision was related in any way to the reported investigations relating to her 2012 presidential campaign, or to any fear she might not be re-elected.  But whatever may be her particular situation, the … Continue Reading

Ensign Case Shows How FEC Allegations Can Be a Multi-Front War for Candidates, Third Parties

As noted above, the Federal Election Commission obtained civil penalties from former Senator John Ensign and his parents totaling more than $50,000, for making and receiving excessive contributions and failing to disclose them to the FEC.  For the much-maligned former Senator, this news has been described as a footnote – a “sad end to a … Continue Reading