Today, the FEC issued a formal statement on the impact of the D.C. District Court’s decision this spring in Van Hollen v. FEC.  The conclusion — the disclosure regulations are to be applied as originally written, and the agency will employ common sense definitions of several terms.

As a result of the court decision (which is effective while being appealed), any person that airs an electioneering communication must disclose donors who gave in excess of $1,000 since January 1, 2011.  That disclosure is either of all donors (if general treasury funds are used), or only donors to a segregated fund used for electioneering communications (if the person has such an account and used it to fund the ad).  No surprise here, given the court’s decision and the way the statute and regulations are written.  

The FEC also provided a common sense definition of which “donors” must be disclosed.  It excludes members who pay routine membership dues, investors, and customers who pay for goods or services.  So this provides some clarity to the law, but is unlikely to change the strategic thinking of many active in the world of 501(c)(4)s.

Photo of Robert Lenhard Robert Lenhard

Robert Lenhard is a member of the firm’s Election & Political Law practice group and advises corporations, trade associations, not-for-profit organizations, and high-net-worth individuals on compliance with federal and state campaign finance, lobbying, and government ethics laws.

Mr. Lenhard routinely assists clients in…

Robert Lenhard is a member of the firm’s Election & Political Law practice group and advises corporations, trade associations, not-for-profit organizations, and high-net-worth individuals on compliance with federal and state campaign finance, lobbying, and government ethics laws.

Mr. Lenhard routinely assists clients in establishing and operating federal and state PACs, compliance programs associated with campaign finance and pay-to-play laws; advises advocacy groups and their donors; conducts compliance trainings and audits of federal and state lobbying and political programs; and counsels clients on compliance with congressional gift and travel rules.

Prior to joining the firm in 2008, Mr. Lenhard served as Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in 2007 and Vice Chairman of the agency in 2006, during which time the agency handled over 10 major rulemakings, had among its most productive years in enforcement and audit, and adopted several reforms to the enforcement process.  Mr. Lenhard has also led the Presidential Transition Team that reviewed the FEC for the incoming Obama administration in 2008-2009.