Godfrey & Kahn regularly advises businesses, trade and industry associations on campaign finance, election law and lobbying and ethics regulation—in short, on the law of politics and government.
Several of our attorneys have direct experience with state and national political campaigns. We also provide a great deal of legislative counseling, planning, analysis and drafting for business and industry groups. Our Washington, D.C. office provides support for our corporate and political law clients.
Members of the political law group frequently speak before seminars organized by businesses and trade associations, and regularly author articles on subjects related to their areas of proficiency.
We counsel a growing list of state and national clients on contributions to candidates and political organizations in Wisconsin, in other states and nationally. Trade associations, businesses, issue advocacy and interest groups, consultants, public opinion firms and others need counsel who focus on this complex and changing area of the law. We provide that counsel.
Our work in this area includes:
- Counseling clients on state law, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and the Federal Election Campaign Act, including the use of corporate facilities and funds for political purposes
- Representing clients before state regulatory agencies and the Federal Election Commission
- Structuring contribution programs and preparing opinion letters for specific contributions
- Advising clients on independent expenditures, issue advocacy communications and other independent political activities, including the coordinated activities of independent organizations
- Establishing entities engaged in issue advocacy and other nonfederal activities
- Advising tax-exempt organizations on political involvement under the Internal Revenue Code and state and federal campaign finance law
- Counseling municipal finance professionals and consultants on restrictions on campaign contributions under MSRB Rules G-37 and G-38
- Conducting due diligence research on political groups
- Assisting with internal compliance and training
Lobbying and Ethics Regulation
Our attorneys frequently advise individuals, businesses and organizations that regularly communicate with elected officials, legislative staff and other public officials. These individuals and entities are often subject to state and federal lobbying and ethics regulations. Our attorneys also counsel appointed and elected public officials on the regulations and restrictions in connection with their outside business interests and income. Members of the group also have experience working with U.S. subsidiaries of foreign parent corporations on complying with the Foreign Agents Registration Act. In addition to providing counsel on the law, the group assists clients in establishing internal compliance and reporting programs
Tax Regulation of Political Activity
The Internal Revenue Code directly affects political conduct and communication. Any organization for profit or non-profit that engages in lobbying or political activity should be aware of the tax treatment of expenditures made to influence legislation and political campaigns. These regulations—including the nondeductibility of lobbying expenses and taxation of political organizations—are complex, and noncompliance often leads to penalties or unwanted change in tax status. Members of the group regularly provide counsel to businesses and organizations on the tax implications of political activity
The group regularly counsels its clients on election law and working effectively within the electoral system, including state and local referendum activity. In addition to advising businesses and trade associations, our attorneys provide counsel to candidates for public office on recounts and to public officials on recall efforts. Members of the group also have extensive experience with the law of redistricting and establishing political boundaries every ten years to reflect the results of the decennial census
Legislative Analysis, Strategy and Drafting
We regularly monitor the state legislature and state administrative agencies. Drawing on the varied experiences of attorneys who have worked in state and federal government, members of the group are often asked to evaluate client issues from a legislative and regulatory perspective. Several attorneys have firsthand experience in drafting legislation and administrative rules. In many situations, they work in tandem with a lobbyist for a business or trade association.
Arrington v. Elections Board, 173 F. Supp. 2d 856 (E.D. Wis. 2001)
Jensen v. Wisconsin Elections Board, 249 Wis. 2d 706, 639 N.W.2d 537, 2002 WI 13 (2002)
Wisconsin Realtors Ass'n v. Ponto, 233 F. Supp. 2d 1078 (W.D. Wis. 2002)
Elections Board v. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, 227 Wis. 2d 650, 597 N.W.2d 721 cert. denied, 528 U.S. 969 (1999)