After extensive legislative deliberation over the past year, last week the Council of the District of Columbia unanimously approved a campaign finance reform bill which aims to tighten up rules around LLC contributions and promote fundraising transparency.  Notably, the D.C. Council had contemplated inserting pay-to-play restrictions in the campaign finance bill, but ultimately removed any such provisions in the final version of the legislation. 

A prominent feature of the legislation is the elimination of what some have referred to as the “LLC loophole,” whereby contributions by individuals and corporate entities might not be aggregated for purposes of contribution limits.  In addition to imposing a single contribution limit for “related businesses” with common owners, the legislation also mandates:

  • Training programs for political campaign treasurers;
  • Reporting of fundraising data by political campaigns;
  • Publication of fundraising reports by the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance; and
  • Lobbyist disclosure of “bundled” contributions forwarded to a campaign.

The legislation also enhances penalties for campaign finance violations and authorizes prosecution for misdemeanors by the D.C. Attorney General.  The bill still must be signed by Mayor Vincent Gray, and would not take effect until 2015.

Photo of Robert Kelner Robert Kelner

Robert Kelner is the chair of Covington’s Election and Political Law Practice Group. Mr. Kelner provides political law compliance advice to a wide range of corporate and political clients.  His compliance practice focuses on federal and state campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, pay to…

Robert Kelner is the chair of Covington’s Election and Political Law Practice Group. Mr. Kelner provides political law compliance advice to a wide range of corporate and political clients.  His compliance practice focuses on federal and state campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, pay to play, and government ethics laws, as well as legal ethics rules.  His expertise includes the Federal Election Campaign Act, Lobbying Disclosure Act, Ethics in Government Act, Foreign Agents Registration Act, and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  He is also a leading authority on the arcane rules governing political contributions by municipal securities dealers, investment advisers, hedge funds, and private equity funds.  Mr. Kelner advises Presidential political appointees on the complex process of being vetted and confirmed for such appointments.

In addition, he regularly advises corporations and corporate executives on instituting political law compliance programs.  He conducts compliance training for senior corporate executives and lobbyists.  He has extensive experience conducting corporate internal investigations concerning campaign finance and lobbying law compliance, as well as other corporate compliance matters.  Mr. Kelner regularly defends clients in investigations by the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. House & Senate Ethics Committees, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, the House & Senate Judiciary Committees, the House Energy & Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and other congressional committees.  He has prepared numerous CEOs and corporate executives for testimony before congressional investigation panels, and he regularly leads the Practicing Law Institute’s training program on congressional investigations for in-house lawyers.  He also defends clients in Lobbying Disclosure Act audits by the GAO and enforcement actions and audits by state election and lobbying enforcement agencies.

Mr. Kelner has appeared as a commentator on political law matters on The PBS News Hour, CNBC, Fox News, and NPR, and he has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Legal Times, Washington Times, Roll Call, The Hill, Politico, USA Today, Financial Times, and other publications.