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Election Law and Campaign Finance

Democracy is a full-time regulated industry. Virtually every action taken to engage the political process is open to legal regulation or scrutiny.  Experienced counsel is an important member of a corporation's or political organization's team to ensure political activity is legal. Due to our varied experiences, LeClairRyan’s Election Law & Campaign Finance attorneys are equipped to assist politically active citizens and organizations in complying with the tremendous number of laws and regulations restricting political activity in the United States.

Attorneys in this practice area advise corporations, trade associations, non-profit organizations, political action committees, candidates and public officials, issue advocacy groups (including “527 organizations”) and other political committees on compliance with:

  • The Federal Election Campaign Act, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA or "McCain-Feingold"), and Federal Election Commission regulations 
  • Internal Revenue Service regulations related to lobbying, electioneering activity and political advocacy 
  • Federal and state ethics and lobbying regulations 
  • MSRB-37 Restrictions on Municipal Finance Broker-Dealers
  • The Virginia Campaign Finance Disclosure Act
  • Election Administration, Recounts & Contests

Our attorneys have litigated cases involving equal protection and voting rights, the Hatch Act, and the First Amendment rights of political parties and corporations that have reached the Supreme Court of the United States. We have experience representing clients in state and federal courts, and we have represented politically active clients before the Federal Election Commission, the Office of Public Integrity of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

The media also must comply with regulations on political broadcasts and political film distribution. Our attorneys have advised filmmakers and members of the press on: 

  • The marketing and distribution of political films in theaters and on television
  • Sensitive political broadcasting and programming decisions 
  • The Federal Election Commission’s “media exemption” 
  • The Federal Communications Commission’s “equal time” and sponsorship disclosure regulations

In addition, our attorneys have experience advising Internet-based political clients on the legal limitations of evolving regulatory standards on the new communications medium.

Our attorneys have published several articles and book chapters on campaign and election law and lecture frequently around the country on these topics.

REPRESENTATIVE EXPERIENCE OF THE ELECTION LAW AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE PRACTICE AREA INCLUDES: 

  • Advised three presidential campaigns in the 2008 cycle: John McCain and McCain-Palin, Jim Gilmore for President, and Tom Tancredo for a Secure America
  • Litigated 727-vote recount in 5th congressional district election of 2008
  • General Counsel to Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell's successful campaign in 2009
  • Advised the Republican Party of Virginia and the campaign of George Allen on the potential recount following the 2006 Senatorial election in Virginia 
  • General Counsel to the successful campaign of Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell and successfully litigated the Attorney General's statewide recount (2005)
  • On brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in First Amendment challenge to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, 540 U.S. 93 (2003) 
  • Defended the First Amendment rights of the Colorado Republican Party to make independent expenditures in connection with a U.S. Senate campaign 
  • Defended the National Republican Senatorial Committee in consumer fraud actions brought by the Attorney Generals of New Jersey and Illinois for fundraising solicitations 
  • General Counsel to Republican Party of Virginia (2009 - current) and Republican Party of Virginia Victory Committee 2006)
  • Regularly advise candidates, non-profit organizations, political committees and donors on the compliance with state and federal campaign finance laws 
  • Advised several media organizations on First Amendment freedom of the press to finance and exhibit election-related programs and application of the “press exemption” under the Federal Election Campaign Act and defended media organizations against complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission alleging programming outside the bounds of the “press exemption”  
  • Advised Internet companies and media organizations on the appropriate use of websites to post information and fundraising solicitations about federal candidates 
  • Regularly advise business corporations and trade associations on establishment of “separate segregated funds” or “political action committees” and compliance with applicable federal and state election laws 
  • Established several tax-exempt organizations [501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), 501(c)(6), 527] to engage in political and policy advocacy and advise them on compliance with the Internal Revenue Code, Lobbying Disclosure Act, Federal Election Campaign Act, and state campaign finance laws 
  • Successfully represented voters in Northern Virginia in a “one-man, one-vote” Equal Protection challenge to Virginia’s implementation of a new redistricting plan, leading to resignation of a senior state senator, call of a special election, and passage of an amendment to the Virginia Constitution (Haddow v. Warner, U.S. District Court, E.D. Virginia, 2002) 
  • Represented federal employees through the investigation and litigation stages of Hatch Act enforcement matters