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International Political Influence and Corruption in Elections: Will Recent Events Lead to Stricter U.S. Regulation?

Level: Intermediate
Runtime: 61 minutes
Recorded Date: October 07, 2019
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- Campaign Finance and Foreign Influence
- Legal Framework and Enforcement Environment
        A) Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA)
        B) Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA)
        C) Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)
        D) Other Laws, Litigation and Limits

- The Global Anti-Corruption Legislative Landscape
- Foreign Political Influence in the United States

Runtime: 1 hour
Recorded: October 7, 2019


Recently, there have been investigations, indictments, and prosecutions over whether foreign actors attempted to influence U.S. elections, officials, and the American public through social media propaganda, campaign contributions, and undisclosed representation of foreign interests. At the same time, the Department of Justice has obtained record penalties against U.S. companies for violating American laws against corrupting foreign officials. New legislation is also being considered, but even without new legislation, private media companies have begun self-regulating their platforms and U.S. multinational companies find themselves confronting complex questions when working with foreign governments, companies and nonprofit organizations.

This program was recorded on October 7th, 2019.

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Michael A. Columbo

Neilsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Gross & Leoni LLP

Mike Columbo supports and defends corporations, non-profit organizations, trade associations, political committees, and individuals engaged in the political process by counseling them on compliance with federal and state campaign, ethics, and lobby rules as well as defending regulatory enforcement actions.

Representative work includes counseling a corporation’s response to a government agency subpoena, auditing a corporate PAC for compliance with federal PAC laws, refinement of corporate political activity policies, advanced legal review of proposed gifts, contributions, and grants, advice regarding political communication content, disclaimers, and reporting requirements, and serving as a treasurer to political committees and counsel to political nonprofit organizations.

Mr. Columbo has extensive experience in campaign finance law and policy as well as administrative enforcement arising from his service as counsel to Commissioner Lee E. Goodman and as a staff attorney in the Enforcement Division of the Federal Election Commission. Previously, Mr. Columbo was a white collar defense attorney representing corporate clients in a variety of high-profile issues arising from their government contracts, a trial and appellate criminal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and law clerk to the Hon. Stephanie Duncan-Peters of the District of Columbia Superior Court.

As an advocate for the fulfillment of First Amendment freedoms, Mr. Columbo comments on proposed political law statutes and regulations, addresses audiences regarding the regulation of political activity, and publishes on political law issues. He is a Senior Fellow with the Institute for Free Speech, which promotes and defends the First Amendment rights to freely speak, assemble, publish, and petition the government through strategic litigation, communication, activism, training, research, and education.

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Severin Ian Wirz

Senior Director, Anti-Corruption Compliance & Ethics

Severin Wirz is the Senior Director of the Anti-Corruption Compliance & Ethics at TIAA.

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David H. Laufman

Wiggin & Dana LLP

David is a member of the firm’s White Collar Defense, Investigations and Corporate Compliance Practice Group; a member of the International Trade Compliance Practice Group; and Co-Chair of the National Security Practice Group. David’s defense and compliance practice at Wiggin and Dana draws heavily on his extensive experience in government enforcement and national security affairs, most recently as Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) in the National Security Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

David represents companies and individuals in federal white-collar criminal investigations and regulatory enforcement actions, as well as in congressional investigations, Inspector General investigations, and national security matters, including transactions subject to review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). He also counsels companies and individuals regarding compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), U.S. export control and sanctions laws, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), and government ethics laws.

When serving as Chief of CES, David oversaw the investigation and prosecution of offenses concerning U.S. export control and economic sanctions, foreign agent registration and disclosure, atomic energy and counterproliferation, espionage, the theft of trade secrets and other proprietary intellectual property benefiting a foreign government or instrumentality (economic espionage), cyber intrusions by nation states and their proxies, and the unauthorized retention and disclosure of classified information. Among his accomplishments as Chief of CES, David spearheaded DOJ’s increased enforcement of FARA; oversaw the criminal prosecution of ZTE Corporation, a leading Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer, for violations concerning U.S. sanctions against Iran; played a major role in negotiating a Non-Prosecution Agreement with Netcracker Technology Corporation, a global software company, resulting in the imposition of enhanced security protocols in software development; and co-authored both DOJ’s Strategic Plan for Export Control and Sanctions Enforcement and its Guidance Regarding Voluntary Self-Disclosures, Cooperation, and Remediation in Export Control and Sanctions Investigations Involving Business Organizations.

While Chief of CES, David also played a leadership role in two of the most sensitive investigations in the recent history of the Department of Justice. He oversaw the investigation of Hillary Clinton concerning allegations that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on a personal email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. Prior to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III, David also oversaw the investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Previously, David served as a federal prosecutor and a senior official at DOJ’s highest operational and policy levels. As Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General from 2001 to 2003, he assisted in the day-to-day management of DOJ and helped to coordinate its responses to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Afterward, he served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, where he prosecuted terrorism, export control, and other national security offenses. David also later served as a Special Trial Attorney to the Fraud Section at DOJ, where, on detail from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (“SIGIR”), he investigated and prosecuted procurement fraud and corruption related to U.S. economic assistance to Iraq.

David has received several awards for his work as a litigator. In 2006, he received the John Marshall Award for Outstanding Legal Achievement, DOJ’s highest award for excellence in litigation, for his trial work as lead prosecutor in the terrorism case United States v. Abu Ali. In 2007, David received the FBI Director’s Award for Outstanding Counterterrorism Investigation for his work in United States v. Khan (“the Virginia Jihad case”). In 2011, he received the Award for Excellence in Investigation from the Council of the Inspector Generals for Integrity and Efficiency for his work in the case of United States v. Ayesh, which resulted in new judicial precedent regarding the extraterritorial application of federal conflict-of-interest laws.

David also draws on his extensive experience in government ethics and public corruption investigations. From 1992 to 1993, he served as Senior Associate Minority Counsel to the Task Force to Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of American Hostages by Iran in 1980 (“October Surprise Task Force”), a special bipartisan panel of the U.S. House of Representatives. Subsequently, he served as Associate Independent Counsel in the Investigation Concerning the Search of William J. Clinton’s Passport Files during the 1992 Presidential Election Campaign. From 1996 to 2000, David served as Investigative Counsel to the Ethics Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he conducted ethics investigations of Members of Congress and coordinated the sanctions hearing of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Following the Gingrich case, he played a central role in crafting and negotiating changes to the ethics rules of the House of Representatives in his capacity as Assistant to the Special Counsel to the Ethics Reform Task Force. David also conducted professional misconduct investigations for the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ before becoming Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General.

David is the author of numerous publications and has provided expert commentary to prominent news organizations and programs, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, BBC World News America, MSNBC, and CNN. His legal accomplishments also have been featured in the Wall Street Journal.

David was born in Houston, Texas, where he attended St. John's School. He received his bachelor's degree in 1979 from the University of Pennsylvania, graduating magna cum laude with distinction in international relations. He received his law degree in 1987 from Georgetown University Law Center. He is also the author of numerous publications and has provided expert commentary to prominent news organizations and programs, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, BBC World News America, MSNBC, and CNN. His legal accomplishments also have been featured in the Wall Street Journal.

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Ellen L. Weintraub

Federal Election Commission (FEC)

Ellen L. Weintraub has served as a commissioner on the U.S. Federal Election Commission since 2002 and chaired it for the third time in 2019.

During her tenure, Weintraub has served as a consistent voice for meaningful campaign-finance law enforcement and robust disclosure. She believes that strong and fair regulation of money in politics is important to prevent corruption and maintain the faith of the American people in their democracy.

Weintraub sounded the alarm early–and continues to do so–regarding the potential for corporate and “dark-money” spending to become a vehicle for foreign influence in our elections.

Weintraub is a native New Yorker with degrees from Yale College and Harvard Law School. Prior to her appointment to the FEC, Weintraub was Of Counsel to the Political Law Group of Perkins Coie LLP and Counsel to the House Ethics Committee

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