Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has vetoed Georgia Senate Bill 368, which would have created a requirement in state law for certain “agents of foreign principals” to register and report certain lobbying and political activities in Georgia.  This is the first of the wave of recently proposed baby FARA bills at the state level, designed to mirror the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act, that made it to a state governor’s desk, and also the first to be vetoed.  In the Governor’s brief veto message, he wrote that “Senate Bill 368 would prohibit foreign nationals from making political contributions, which is already prohibited by federal law, and impose additional state-level registration requirements on agents of foreign principals, some of which were unintended by the bill’s sponsor.”  He indicated that the bill’s own sponsor had requested that he veto it.

The Georgia bill, like other proposed state-level baby FARA laws, could have had broad consequences (likely broader than intended) not just for foreign companies but also for U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies, as well as nonprofits, academic institutions, religious institutions, and others because, unlike the federal FARA statute, it did not include major exemptions intended to carve out at least some entities from the obligation to register. Covington is continuing to track the growing wave of proposed baby FARA bills, including whether the bills in other states meet the same fate as the ill-fated Georgia bill.

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Photo of Robert Kelner Robert Kelner

Robert Kelner is the chair of Covington’s Election and Political Law Practice Group. Mr. Kelner provides political law compliance advice to a wide range of corporate and political clients.  His compliance practice focuses on federal and state campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, pay to…

Robert Kelner is the chair of Covington’s Election and Political Law Practice Group. Mr. Kelner provides political law compliance advice to a wide range of corporate and political clients.  His compliance practice focuses on federal and state campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, pay to play, and government ethics laws, as well as legal ethics rules.  His expertise includes the Federal Election Campaign Act, Lobbying Disclosure Act, Ethics in Government Act, Foreign Agents Registration Act, and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  He is also a leading authority on the arcane rules governing political contributions by municipal securities dealers, investment advisers, hedge funds, and private equity funds.  Mr. Kelner advises Presidential political appointees on the complex process of being vetted and confirmed for such appointments.

In addition, he regularly advises corporations and corporate executives on instituting political law compliance programs.  He conducts compliance training for senior corporate executives and lobbyists.  He has extensive experience conducting corporate internal investigations concerning campaign finance and lobbying law compliance, as well as other corporate compliance matters.  Mr. Kelner regularly defends clients in investigations by the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. House & Senate Ethics Committees, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, the House & Senate Judiciary Committees, the House Energy & Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and other congressional committees.  He has prepared numerous CEOs and corporate executives for testimony before congressional investigation panels, and he regularly leads the Practicing Law Institute’s training program on congressional investigations for in-house lawyers.  He also defends clients in Lobbying Disclosure Act audits by the GAO and enforcement actions and audits by state election and lobbying enforcement agencies.

Mr. Kelner has appeared as a commentator on political law matters on The PBS News Hour, CNBC, Fox News, and NPR, and he has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Legal Times, Washington Times, Roll Call, The Hill, Politico, USA Today, Financial Times, and other publications.