Political Law Compliance: Ethics

From Members of Congress to lobbyists, and from executive officials to political action committee (PAC) organizers, all individuals involved in the U.S. political system are subject to ethical standards. We help our clients ensure that they meet their ethical obligations in everything they do.

From elected officials and political appointees to staff members, all U.S. government officials and employees are subject to ethical standards. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches impose ethical standards for private citizens who interact with government offices and agencies as well. Within the U.S. political system, ethics compliance is a hallmark of our democracy, and everyone involved must do their part to maintain the integrity of our government.

At the federal level, ethical standards originate from multiple sources. Laws such as the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) establish ethical standards for public officers and private citizens, as do rules promulgated by both Houses of Congress and the Executive Branch. Of course, lawyers practicing in the federal courts are subject to ethical rules as well. Ethics compliance is essential for a variety of different reasons; and, while some ethical rules are fairly obvious, there are many intricacies of which government officials and private citizens must be aware as well.

Federal Political Law Attorneys for Ethics Compliance

Our firm brings centuries of experience to representing elected officials, political appointees, government personnel, lobbyists and lobbying firms, political action committees (PACs), and other individuals and entities with regard to ethics compliance. Not only do we have deep experience advising clients on ethical compliance issues, but several of our attorneys are former federal prosecutors who served under appointments from President Obama and President Trump.

In the political sphere, virtually all activities have the potential to raise ethical issues. While these issues can often be extraordinarily complex and nuanced, decisions need to be made, and our attorneys help our clients move forward with a clear understanding of what rules apply, how they apply, and what they can do safely within the relevant confines.

Political Ethics: What are the Rules and When Do they Apply?

The ethical rules that apply in any given situation depend on both the circumstances and the party (or parties) involved. The following are all areas in which specific ethical rules apply, and in which all relevant individuals and organizations must take adequate measures to ensure ethics compliance:

Ethical Rules for Members of Congress and Staffers

The House and Senate have each adopted extensive sets of ethics rules that apply to their Members. For example, in the House, the following documents contain hundreds of pages of rules, guidance, and interpretation—and these are far from the only sources of ethical requirements for U.S. Representatives:

  • House Ethics Manual
  • Code of Official Conduct
  • Committee Rules
  • House Rules
  • FEC Campaign Booklet
  • Rules Regarding Personal Financial Transactions

Our attorneys are available to advice Members of the House and the Senate regarding ethics compliance under all pertinent sources of authority. From wedding gifts to reelection campaigns, we help our clients understand what rules apply and what they need to do in order to avoid embarrassing and costly mistakes.

Ethical Rules for Executive Branch Officials and Employees

The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch set forth the primary (but not exclusive) ethical obligations of federal executive officers and employees. This 97-page document covers a multitude of issues—and in many cases it does so in great detail. At Oberheiden P.C., we help Executive Branch officials and employees understand and meet their ethical obligations with respect to matters including (but not limited to):

  • Gifts from private citizens, businesses, and foreign entities
  • Gifts from other Executive Branch officials and employees
  • Financial conflicts of interest
  • Maintaining impartiality in the conduct of official duties
  • Seeking employment outside of the U.S. government
  • Misuse of position (abuse of authority and using public office or nonpublic information for personal gain)
  • Teaching, speaking, and writing
  • Fundraising activities

Ethical Rules for Campaign Finance

The Federal Election Campaign Act, U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations, and various other sources of authority establish ethical rules for campaign finance. This includes ethical rules that apply to donors, candidates, campaigns, political action committees (PACs), and other individuals and entities. From contribution limits to reporting obligations, and from attribution requirements to requirements for returning impermissible donations, virtually all aspects of campaign finance compliance involve ethical issues and implications.

Ethical Rules for Political Communications

While the financing of political communications is not subject to the same stringent standards as the financing of political campaigns, a multitude of ethical rules still apply. Of course, political communications themselves must also meet ethical standards. Our lawyers represent campaigns, corporations, PACs, and other committees and organizations with respect to all aspects of ethics compliance in the political communications realm. This includes everything from ensuring that the sources of financing for political communications are permissible to reviewing commercials and other communications prior to their public release.

Ethical Rules for Lobbying

Federal oversight of lobbyists underwent a major overhaul in 1995 with the enactment of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), and then in 2007 with the enactment of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA). Lobbyists and lobbying firms are still feeling the effects, and the new ethical obligations present a host of new challenges when it comes to lobbying compliance. Our firm represents lobbying firms, individual lobbyists, and corporations regarding ethical lobbying, and we provide full-service compliance representation under the LDA, HLOGA, and other pertinent laws, regulations, and rules as well.

Ethical Rules for Political Action Committees and Other Political Organizations

PACs, Super PACs, and other political committees and organizations face ethical considerations in numerous areas of their operations as well. Fundraising, use of donated funds, reporting, and other aspects of compliance all present ethical considerations that need to be proactively addressed in order to remain compliant with FECA and the other laws and regulations that apply. Our political law attorneys represent PACs and other political organizations with regard to ethics compliance, with regard to FEC compliance in general, and with regard to all other aspects of lawfully operating within the U.S. political system.

Ethical Rules for Government Contracting

Government contractors – and government officials and employees who interact with government contractors – have ethical obligations as well. When government contractors offer bribes or engage in pay-to-play schemes, they threaten the very foundation of our democracy and the integrity of our system of government. As a result, the ethical rules for government contracting are vigorously enforced at the federal level, and government contractors and government personnel alike need to ensure that they have a clear and comprehensive understanding of all of the rules that apply.

How We Help Political Officials, Government Personnel, and Private Individuals and Entities with Regard to Ethics Compliance

At Oberheiden P.C., we are committed to ensuring that our clients have a clear understanding of their ethical responsibilities and that they are able to make informed decisions without fear of reprisals. We offer ethics compliance representation that is tailored not only to our clients’ specific circumstances, but also to their specific goals and objectives. In many cases, while ethical rules might prevent a certain course of action, it will be possible to achieve the desired result through other means. We help our clients explore these types of alternatives, and we offer strategic compliance advice that is focused on finding solutions—and not merely identifying ethical problems.

As ethics compliance counsel for government officials, legislators, staffers, lobbyists, PACs, government contractors, and others, we offer services including:

  • Ethics Assessments – If you have questions about the ethical implications of a proposed act, transaction, or course of conduct, our political law attorneys can assess the circumstances involved and shed light on any ethical concerns that may be implicated.
  • Ethics Opinions – When desired, we provide formal ethics opinions that state our attorneys’ conclusions with regard to the ethical implications of proposed transactions and activities.
  • Ethics Compliance Program Development – If your office, business, or organization needs an ethics compliance program, our attorneys can draft policies and procedures that are specific to the ethical implications of your office’s, business’s, or organization’s political or governmental operations.
  • Ethics Compliance Program Training – Our attorneys can provide staff training on the compliance policies and procedures we develop for your office, business, or organization.
  • Identification of Exceptions to Ethical Rules – Many federal ethics rules contain exceptions for specific types of activities and transactions. For example, the House and Senate gift rules are subject to numerous specific exceptions that allow gifts from lobbyists and other parties. Our attorneys can determine if any exceptions authorize your proposed gift or other activity or transaction, we can help ensure that your activity falls within a specific exception, and we can assist you in seeking a waiver if necessary.

Speak with a Federal Political Law Attorney about Ethics Compliance

If you need ethics compliance counsel, we encourage you to schedule a time to speak with one of our federal political law attorneys. To discuss how we can help at your convenience, please call 888-680-1745 or get in touch with us online today.

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