One of life’s great privileges is being able to serve your community in meaningful ways, and in politics, that ambition can become a person’s reality. Yet there is no denying that the political landscape is a litigious one, and legal and regulatory risk is lurking on every corner. Political advertising, campaign finance, voter identification, debate regulations, misconduct allegations – we’ve seen it all. Indeed, the sometimes-harsh world of politics is one with which the team at the Fetterman Firm has direct personal experience, and it has only made us even more determined to advocate for brave leaders who truly want to improve people’s lives.
All that said, it can be tough figuring out exactly where a campaigns and elections lawyer fits into your broader political team. What does such a lawyer take responsibility for? What kind of legal issues can you anticipate in campaigns and elections? Keep reading, and we’ll answer all those questions and more.
- What Are the Responsibilities of a Campaigns and Elections Lawyer?
- Campaigns Compliance
- Complaints and Litigation
- Get a Campaigns and Elections Lawyer on Your Team Today
What Are the Responsibilities of a Campaigns and Elections Lawyer?
Campaigns and elections lawyers handle a range of issues in the lead-up to, and the aftermath of, a political election. Sometimes their work centers on the candidate themselves, sometimes on the election integrity, but more often than not, it involves both. Campaigns and elections lawyers are an essential part of a political team, whether the candidate is running for a city-level appointment or a state-level one.
The two core areas of focus for a campaigns and elections lawyer are campaign compliance, and complaints and litigation.
As anyone in politics knows, a political campaign has to be carefully planned, and that means taking into account all of the federal, state, and local regulations that apply to campaign conduct and election processes.
One of the main concerns of political candidates is campaign finance. Campaign finance is governed by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) as well as laws that are created at the state level. The laws govern not only how money is raised for a campaign, but also how it is spent. One of the key areas that we deal with is advising our political clients on the prohibitions and restrictions that apply to individuals or businesses that have vested interests in government policy and contracts – the so-called ‘pay-to-play’ laws.
The Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) and the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) also heavily regulate the conduct of campaigns. As campaigns and elections lawyers, we see these issues all the time and it is imperative candidates stay on the right side of the law. Anyone who tries to influence government policy, decisions, contracts, and the like could be considered a lobbyist and – per the LDA – could be subject to reporting requirements with the secretary of the Senate, which monitors and records the legislative process. In a similar vein, the FARA tries to maintain election integrity by placing registration requirements on lobbying and other forms of influential political activity that advocate the interests of foreign governments or principals.
Finally, one issue that is ever more present in modern campaigns is the use of social media and how that impacts the rules on political advertising. While it is true that the First Amendment allows members of the government to participate in the marketplace of ideas, politicians – and those who aspire to be politicians – still have to abide by certain rules relating to political advertising. Mandatory disclaimers, expenditures, statement accuracy, and sponsorship are all major challenges that can be handled by a campaigns and elections lawyer.
Complaints and Litigation
Politicians are known for having thick skin, but that doesn’t mean that complaints and litigation cannot derail their election campaigns and long-term political ambitions. These are some of the most common types of complaints and litigation that we deal with as campaigns and elections lawyers:
- Campaign finance violations. Given that campaign finance is one of the core areas that politicians seek advice on, it stands to reason that it is also one of the areas where complaints and litigation are rife. Campaign finance is a highly sensitive topic and almost every politician faces complaints at some point about the lawfulness of contributions, their adherence to reporting requirements, the types of expenses they claim, and whether contribution limits were breached. Our lawyers can work proactively to ensure that your campaign finance operations are set up to mitigate these kinds of complaints from the very start.
- Campaign advertising. The most common complaint that politicians face concerning campaign advertising is that they are advertising or promoting something false or misleading. This could relate to: a campaign promise, such as being able to lower drug prices for families: to their involvement in industry, such as withholding information about their stock positions in particular companies; or to something else entirely. All too often, we see these issues spill over into concerns over free speech laws, which can apply to anything from verbal statements and constituent conversations to campaign literature and promotional signs.
- Ethics and personal misconduct. Anyone entering the political sphere comes under intense scrutiny, not only for their political and professional opinions and activities but also for their personal ones. Experimenting with drugs in college, being spotted at a seedy bar, or maintaining extramarital affairs…these often false allegations can be extremely damaging to a campaign, as well as upsetting for the candidate and their family.
- Dilutive redistricting. Gaining political influence may well be about nurturing the trust of your constituents, but when politicians get involved in redistricting plans, allegations that the candidate’s true intention is to dilute the voting power of certain communities can soon arise. And, of greater concern, is that the very serious allegations of voter fraud and voter suppression routinely follow complaints about dilutive redistricting. If handled incorrectly, these can be fatal to an election campaign.
When any of these complaints rise to the level of litigation, the key is to act decisively and quickly. At the Fetterman Firm, we know just how little time you really have to respond to allegations, especially now in times where communications are instantaneous and constituents and reporters alike can post stories online with incredible influence on voters. One of the best ways to respond to the threat of litigation is to proactively manage the risk of it in the first place. We have decades of experience in this arena and can assist candidates in putting together watertight campaigns that stand an excellent chance of winning while being free from the negative impacts of loose-lipped complaints and false allegations.
Get a Campaigns and Elections Lawyer on Your Team Today
At the Fetterman Firm, we don’t just want to be your advisors in the run-up to an election, and we would rather not jump in to manage a crisis at the last minute (though we can if you need us to!) Our true strengths lie in serving as your legal guide from the very start of your political campaign. The laws and regulations surrounding the political process may be ever-changing, but our commitment to improving the lives of Floridians through accountable and ambitious political action never wavers. Politics and the law go hand in hand, so let’s start a powerful partnership today – introduce yourself via our website or call us directly at 772-202-3261.