Return to News Jan 24, 2023

FEC Update: Elias Law Group Attorneys Secure Favorable Opinions During 2022 Election Cycle

Throughout the 2022 election cycle, Elias Law Group attorneys represented federal candidates, party committees and other political organizations before the Federal Election Commission (FEC), an independent regulatory agency charged with administering and enforcing federal campaign finance laws. 

Elias Law Group attorneys regularly request “advisory opinions” from the FEC, seeking clarification on campaign finance regulations on behalf of a client to advance their client’s strategic objectives while ensuring full compliance with the law. In several cases, Elias Law Group was able to secure favorable advisory opinions from the Commission. By clarifying the rules around political activity, these advisory opinions help Democratic campaigns and progressive organizations use their resources more effectively to win elections.  

“ELG’s Political Law practice is proud to help Democratic and progressive clients achieve their goals in the most effective way possible,” said Ezra Reese, Chair of the firm’s Political Law practice. “Our attorneys continue to generate fresh ideas year after year to help our clients innovate.” 

Favorable advisory opinions secured on behalf of Elias Law Group clients during the 2022 election cycle include:  

  • Advisory Opinion 2022-05. In June 2022, the FEC issued an advisory opinion in response to request by Elias Law Group attorneys representing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). The Commission approved for the first time the ability of a national party committee to split the cost of a research book with an authorized candidate, thereby decreasing the cost to the candidate.  
  • Advisory Opinion 2022-09. This opinion, requested on behalf of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Federal, clarified that the Wisconsin Democratic Party was permitted to form a joint fundraising committee with a nominee fund established for the eventual Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin. In the opinion, FEC Chairman Allen J. Dickerson wrote that the client’s proposal to form a joint fundraising committee was “consistent both with the Commission’s regulation governing joint fundraising activities and with prior Commission advisory opinions concerning the solicitation of contributions on behalf of a yet-determined recipient.” This win allows state party committees to use the time period before a primary election occurs to secure key financial support for the eventual nominee, making sure our candidates kick off their general election campaign in the strongest position possible. 
  • Advisory Opinion 2022-11. State Democracy Defenders PAC (SDD PAC), represented by Elias Law Group attorneys, sought an advisory opinion to clarify whether state political parties and their chairs could solicit unlimited contributions for SDD PAC. The Commission concluded that “state party committees and their chairs may solicit and direct nonfederal funds to SDD PAC’s non-contribution account.” The opinion strengthens the ability of state parties to work with national pro-democracy organizations. 
  • Advisory Opinion 2022-17. On behalf of Warren Democrats, Inc., Elias Law Group attorneys asked the FEC to provide guidance on whether campaign funds could be used to pay for the costs of reasonable cybersecurity measures to protect the home network of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. The Commission found that Warren Democrats, Inc., “may use campaign funds to pay for the costs of reasonable cybersecurity measures to protect the Senator’s home network without such payments constituting an impermissible conversion of campaign funds to personal use.” 
  • Advisory Opinion 2022-18. Representing four Democratic congressional campaigns in New York, Elias Law Group attorneys requested an advisory opinion on whether the campaigns could “seek to have contributions that were originally designated for New York’s November 2022 general election redesignated for New York’s August 23, 2022, primary election in light of the Commission’s conclusion in Advisory Opinion 2022-08 that a separate contribution limit applies to the August 23, 2022, primary election.” The campaign received a favorable opinion from the Commission, which concluded that they could seek redesignation of certain funds as requested.  
  • Advisory Opinion 2022-20 and 2022-19. In September 2022, Elias Law Group attorneys sought a series of advisory opinions on behalf of U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan’s campaign committee, Maggie for NH, asking whether a committee could permissibly send short code messages containing links to “split-it” fundraising pages without setting up a joint fundraising committee and without treating the costs of the text messages as an “in-kind” or non-monetary contributions to the other federal political committees listed on the split-it pages. The Commission answered yes to both questions, approving a powerful new fundraising tactic for Democratic candidates and committees.  
  • Advisory Opinion 2022-21. This advisory opinion, requested by Elias Law Group attorneys on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Bennet for Colorado, and People for Patty Murray, sought guidance on how national party committees may spend money designated for legal proceedings, and in particular whether such funds could be spent on advertisements to the general public. The opinion came on the heels of aggressive spending on campaign advertisements by the NRSC, using funds from a special account designated for legal expenses. Per reporting by the New York Times, the NRSC was accused of “breaking federal law by using money that is supposed to be earmarked for legal expenses on campaign ads instead.” In a letter requesting an advisory opinion on the legality of this practice, Elias Law Group Partner Jackie Lopez wrote that “it is beyond the imagination of the D.S.C.C. to understand why the N.R.S.C. believes that candidate attack ads are expenses incurred in connection with a legal proceeding.” In answering the opinion, the FEC articulated a clear, commonsense test that made clear that the NRSC’s prior spending was not permissible. 
  • Advisory Opinion 2022-24. In October 2022, following an Advisory Opinion request from Elias Law Group attorneys, the FEC clarified that Allen Blue could establish a trust that made contributions to federal candidates and political committees under federal campaign finance law.