PAC Investigations - Federal Lawyer
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PAC Investigations

Our Lawyers Represent Political Action Committees (PACs) Nationwide in FBI, DOJ, and Other Federal Agency Investigations

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Attorney Nick Oberheiden
PAC Investigations Team Leadenvelope iconContact Nick

Political action committees (PACs) have been under the microscope in recent years. In 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched a concerted effort to target PACs for campaign finance violations and other federal statutory offenses, and the FBI is continuing to work alongside the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and other federal authorities to pursue civil and criminal charges against PACs and their directors, officers, and supported candidates.

PAC investigations present significant risks, and mitigating these risks requires an informed and strategic approach. Political action committee officers and directors must promptly engage outside counsel to intervene in the government’s investigation and steer the inquiry toward a favorable result. Ideally, this will involve resolving the inquiry without formal charges and without negative publicity. However, if federal prosecutors are committed to pursuing charges, then an altogether different strategy may be necessary.

Experienced Federal Political Lawyers and Former U.S. Attorneys for PAC Investigations

The attorneys at Oberheiden P.C. bring relevant experience to defending political action committees and affiliated individuals during PAC investigations. Our team includes career federal defense lawyers with extensive political law experience as well as former U.S. Attorneys and Assistant U.S. Attorneys who previously prosecuted cases under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and other relevant federal laws. This experience affords our attorneys deep insights into the federal government’s PAC investigation process, and it allows our attorneys to immediately get to work protecting our clients.

PAC Investigation Defense: An Informed Approach is Key

When facing a PAC investigation, identifying the allegations at issue is a critical first step toward executing an effective defense. Federal agents will not necessarily be forthcoming about the scope or nature of their investigation, as limiting targets’ knowledge gives them the upper hand. However, there are ways that PACs can determine what they need to defend against, and their outside counsel should be able to intervene in the investigative process to gather the information needed to begin making informed decisions.

One of the biggest, and most common, mistakes PAC officers and directors can make during federal investigations is assuming they know why their committees are being targeted. If PAC officers and directors attempt to defend against statutory or regulatory violations that are not at issue, this can simultaneously have two adverse effects: Not only will their defense efforts be ineffective against the allegations that are currently at issue, but they may also tip off investigators and expand the scope of the inquiry.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden

Founder

Attorney-at-Law

Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former DOJ Trial Attorney

Partner

Brian J. Kuester
Brian J. Kuester

Former U.S. Attorney

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior DOJ Trial Attorney

Linda Julin McNamara
Linda Julin McNamara

Federal Appeals Attorney

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former DOJ attorney

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (DOJ)

Chris Quick
Chris J. Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Michael S. Koslow
Michael S. Koslow

Former Supervisory Special Agent (DOD-OIG)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Potential Allegations in Federal PAC Investigations

As PAC investigation defense counsel, our lawyers work quickly to identify the nature and scope of our clients’ investigations. Once we know what allegations are on the table—and whether these allegations are civil or criminal in nature—we can then formulate and execute a targeted defense strategy. Depending on the circumstances involved, this may involve defending against allegations such as:

Federal Campaign Finance and Election Law Violations

Most PAC investigations target violations of federal campaign finance and election laws. Political action committees operating in the United States are subject to numerous statutory and regulatory requirements, and violating any of these requirements has the potential to trigger scrutiny from the FBI, DOJ, or other federal authorities. Some of the primary laws and regulations federal authorities use to target PACs include:

  • Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold)
  • Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA)
  • Federal Election Commission (FEC) Regulations
  • Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)
  • Pay-to-Play Laws

Public Corruption and Bribery

Political action committees (and PAC officers and directors) can also face federal investigations targeting allegations of public corruption and bribery. Under 18 U.S.C. Section 201, it is a criminal offense for any organization or individual to, “directly or indirectly, corruptly give[], offer[] or promise[] anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official,” with the intent to influence ay official act or induce a violation of federal law.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Violations

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) extends the prohibitions of 18 U.S.C. Section 201 to PACs’ activities in foreign jurisdictions. Political action committees that provide financial support to foreign election efforts or that seek to influence foreign policy in connection with their domestic agendas must be very careful to avoid running afoul of the FCPA.

Federal Tax Law Violations

Federal investigations targeting PACs also frequently involve allegations of federal tax law violations. In many cases, the FBI and DOJ work closely with the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation division (IRS CI) to pursue charges for tax fraud and tax evasion in connection with charges for accounting fraud and other federal campaign finance law violations.

Other Federal Offenses

In addition to charges that are specific to political action committees’ federal compliance obligations, PAC investigations will frequently involve efforts to substantiate charges under federal criminal laws of general applicability. For example, PACs and their officers, directors, and supported candidates will frequently need to defend against allegations such as:

  • Defrauding the United States (i.e., filing false reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC))
  • Making false statements to federal officials, agents, or investigators
  • Mail fraud and wire fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws (or other federal laws)

Defense Strategies for PAC Investigations

Successfully defending against a PAC investigation is a multi-step and multi-faceted process. To avoid unnecessary consequences, PAC officers and directors must work closely with their outside defense counsel to build and execute a defense focused on the relevant facts, the relevant law, and the allegations at hand. The current status of the government’s investigation is a key consideration as well, as it can become much more difficult to avoid charges once federal authorities have a substantial body of evidence in their possession.

Some of the keys strategies we use to defend our clients during PAC investigations include:

  • Intervene in the Investigation and Proactively Engage with the FBI or DOJ – Early intervention is a key defense strategy in all types of federal investigations. Our attorneys will proactively engage with the FBI’s or DOJ’s investigators to understand the nature and scope of the inquiry, discern the investigators’ next steps, and ensure that all communications flow through our offices.
  • Conduct an Internal Compliance Assessment – After we determine why the government is investigating, we will work with your PAC to conduct an internal compliance assessment. This privileged assessment serves to ensure that we have a clear picture of all of the relevant facts—both favorable and unfavorable—and that we are able to assemble an informed and cohesive defense.
  • Identify, Preserve, and Organize All Relevant Documentation – During federal investigations, PACs must preserve all relevant documentation in order to avoid allegations of impeding the government’s investigative efforts. PACs must also be prepared to comply with any subpoenas the FBI or DOJ may issue during the investigation. We assist our clients with the process of identifying, preserving, and organizing relevant electronic and hardcopy records so that they can meet their obligations while still protecting their privileges and defenses.
  • Affirmatively Demonstrate Statutory and Regulatory Compliance – If the federal government’s investigation is misguided, affirmatively demonstrating compliance may offer the easiest and quickest path toward a favorable resolution. However, when voluntarily providing records to the FBI or DOJ, political action committees must be extremely careful to ensure that they are not waiving any privileges or sharing any information that prosecutors can use against them.
  • Target a Specific Favorable Outcome – Whether seeking to affirmatively demonstrate compliance or expose shortcomings in the government’s case, PACs should target a specific favorable outcome during their investigations. All decisions should be focused on achieving this outcome, and PAC officers and directors should work with their committee’s outside counsel to follow a clear path toward this desired result.

FAQs: Defending Against a Federal PAC Investigation

Why is My PAC Under Investigation?

 

Several factors can lead to federal PAC investigations. Potential triggers range from FEC review of PAC disclosure reports to tips received from political operatives with adverse interests. Determining why your PAC is under investigation is a key early step in the defense process, and it will be one of our firm’s top priorities as your committee’s outside defense counsel.

What Penalties Can Result from a PAC Investigation?

 

The penalties that are on the table as the result of a PAC investigation depend on the specific allegations involved. Broadly speaking, potential consequences range from civil monetary penalties to criminal fines and imprisonment.

When Should I Engage Defense Counsel for a PAC Investigation?

 

If your PAC is under investigation, you should engage defense counsel immediately. A prompt and effective response is paramount, and engaging defense counsel as early in the investigative process as possible will afford the greatest opportunity to secure a favorable (and confidential) resolution without charges being filed.


Discuss Your PAC Investigation with a Senior Federal Political Attorney at Oberheiden P.C.

Is your PAC under investigation? If so, we strongly encourage you to contact us immediately. To arrange a complimentary consultation as soon as possible, call 888-680-1745 or contact us confidentially online now.

Why Clients Trust Oberheiden P.C.

  • 2,000+ Cases Won
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  • Experienced Trial Attorneys
  • Former Department of Justice Trial Attorney
  • Former Federal Prosecutors, U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • Former Agents from FBI, OIG, DEA
  • Serving Clients Nationwide
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