Individuals, businesses and organizations often want to participate in supporting candidates for public office, political parties, ballot questions and other campaign finance committees through financial support or participation in campaign events. With ever-changing federal and state laws and regulations — and important recent rulings — the rights of companies and individuals to support political candidates and issue advertising have been expanded and clarified.

Faegre Drinker advises clients on their rights and legal responsibilities in political campaign, lobbying and election activities. Our professionals also assist clients with campaign finance and lobbying filings, regulatory inquiries, permitted political actions involving employees or company assets, and enforcement proceedings.

Political Action Committee (PAC) Organization and Operation

Federal and state election laws allow certain individuals, corporations, trade associations and other organizations to sponsor and form PACs (political action committees), which are vehicles to collect and pool donations from employees, shareholders, organization members and others in support of federal and state political candidates. Federal and state statutes and regulations for PACs vary widely, and great care must be taken in forming and operating PACs.

Our team advises and assists clients on:

  • Legal requirements of PAC formation
  • Considerations for a nonprofit sponsoring a PAC
  • PAC startup strategy and filing of appropriate forms
  • Permitted fundraising procedures for employees and organization members
  • Adopting PAC internal strategies and procedures
  • Best practices to ensure compliance with PAC reporting obligations
  • Tax and accounting issues arising in PAC operations and reporting
  • Audits and reviews of PAC activities and resolution with regulatory authorities of PAC and electioneering issues
  • Termination and wind-down of campaign finance committees and political organizations

Political Activity by Employers and Businesses

Beyond PACs, employers and businesses can engage in certain campaign activities within federal and state regulatory frameworks. Faegre Drinker advises clients on:

  • Choice of form and jurisdiction for political organization
  • Campaign finance limits for individuals, corporations, LLCs, and other organizations 
  • Current best practices for voluntary disclosure of corporate political activities
  • Rules for sponsoring candidate events on business premises and for participating with other businesses in campaign events
  • Compliance with “pay-to-play” laws regulating campaign activities by government contractors and bidders, as well as certain highly regulated entities
  • Regulations on use of media or publicity concerning office holders and candidates
  • Advice regarding “independent expenditures” for express advocacy
  • Standards and limits on employer promotion of employee political activity and donations
  • Use of volunteers
  • Rules on spending for issue advocacy

Political Activity by Exempt Organizations

Traditional charities may not engage in political election activities under IRS regulations. Associations and other types of nonprofits can and do frequently sponsor PACs and engage in other forms of political campaign and issue communication. We advise trade associations and other nonprofit organizations on:

  • Limitations on political and election activities
  • Rules on association or entity independent or indirect spending in support of candidates
  • Appropriate formation of PACs or other campaign support organizations
  • Requirements for reporting such activities to the IRS, FEC and relevant state agencies

Lobby Registration and Reporting Compliance

Individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations frequently are interested in public policy decisions made by government at various levels. Advocating for certain government decisions is a Constitutional right, but it is an activity which is regulated by Federal, state and, increasingly, local governments. These laws usually require that entitles engaging in certain lobbying register and periodically report those lobbying activities to the relevant Federal, state or local government agencies. We advise clients on:

  • Activity thresholds which trigger lobby registration
  • The nature of lobbying, as distinct from education or sales activities
  • How and when reports must be filed and by whom within a company or group
  • Tracking reportable activities
  • For tax-exempt entities, lobbying limitations of the IRS
  • Amendment or correction of inaccurate reports
  • Resolution of compliance issues or other disputes with lobby regulatory agencies

Administrative Actions, Litigation and Internal Investigations

Our team includes litigators, election lawyers and white-collar crime lawyers with experience representing individuals, businesses, governments, candidates, and committees in adversary proceedings and investigations, including in:

  • Federal, state and local campaign finance regulatory bodies
  • Election administration boards
  • State and federal courts
  • Federal and state prosecuting agencies

Gift and Ethics Laws

Entertaining, hiring and doing business with government officials and employees are also highly regulated by government gift and ethics laws. We advise clients on:

  • Ensuring compliance with gift rules
  • Assessing post-employment (revolving door) restrictions on government officials and employees 
  • Analyzing government conflicts of interest laws 

Other Services

To round out our full-service political law practice, our professionals provide a range of additional advice and representation on other election-related matters, including:

  • Election administration
  • Electoral redistricting 
  • Development of post-election transition plans and representation of newly elected officials
  • Newly elected official training on core duties, governance and regulatory issues
  • Representation on free speech and association issues
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