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Brian Smith provides strategic and legal advice on matters that require substantial political, reputational, or government relations considerations.  He represents companies and individuals in high-profile or high-risk investigations, particularly congressional investigations, criminal investigations with political implications, and investigations related to political law compliance.  He has significant experience in crisis management, where he advises clients facing combined legal, political, and media relations risks.  His practice also includes the development and execution of government relations initiatives, including securing the U.S. government’s political support on behalf of U.S. companies facing international legal issues.

Public Policy

With Senate Democrats having secured the 50th vote needed to maintain control of the Senate,  both parties are eagerly awaiting the results of the Georgia runoff on December 6 between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Republican candidate Herschel Walker.  If Walker wins, the Senate will be split 50-50.  The implications of a 51–49 Democratic majority versus a 50–50 Democratic majority are significant.

An Equally Divided Senate

Since February 3, 2021, the Senate has operated under an organizing resolution negotiated by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  The organizing resolution formalized a power-sharing agreement for the 117th Congress and was largely modeled on the 2001 power-sharing agreement reached by then-Democratic leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and then-Republican leader Trent Lott (R-MS) following the November 2000 elections that resulted in a 50–50 Senate split for the 107th Congress.  The 2021 power-sharing agreement laid out internal rules of the Senate, apportioned the makeup and control of committees, and prescribed procedures for the control of Senate business.  Specifically, the 2021 power-sharing agreement provides that:

  • Senate committees be equally balanced with members of both parties;
  • The majority and minority on each committee have equal budgets and office space;
  • If a subcommittee vote is tied on either legislation or a nomination, the committee chair may discharge the matter and place it on the full committee’s agenda;
  • If a committee vote is tied, the Majority or Minority Leader may offer a motion to discharge the measure from committee, subject to a vote by the full Senate;
  • Debate may not be cut off for the first 12 hours; and
  • It is the “sense of the Senate” that both Majority and Minority leaders “shall seek to attain an equal balance of the interests of the two parties” when scheduling and debating legislative and executive business.


Continue Reading Governing the Senate in the 118th Congress

Yesterday, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol filed a highly consequential brief in ongoing litigation relating to a subpoena seeking documents involving attorney John Eastman’s alleged participation in efforts to thwart Congress’s certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election.  Not surprisingly, the Select Committee’s

With a growing chorus of support across the progressive landscape, the For the People Act of 2021 has emerged as a key legislative priority for congressional Democrats in the 117th Congress. Envisioned as a “transformational anti-corruption and clean elections reform package,” the bill would enact sweeping changes to federal election laws along with important changes

Financial institutions are consistently targets of congressional oversight interest. In the last Congress, House and Senate committees held hearings with, demanded documents from, requested interviews with, and hosted briefings from a number of bank and non-bank financial institutions regarding a variety of issues. In a recent client alert, we looked at recent trends in

After the election of two Democratic Senate candidates in the Georgia runoff elections on January 5, 2021, the Senate this year will be equally divided between 50 Democratic Senators (and those caucusing with them) and 50 Republican Senators. Governing in an equally divided Senate presents several challenges regarding the internal rules of the Senate, the

As the calendar turns from 2020 to 2021, we are taking stock of congressional investigations over the past two years, and assessing events in the recent weeks that help to shed light on the likely trajectory for congressional investigations in 2021.

  • In late October, we considered congressional investigations in the context of the upcoming election.

On Wednesday, December 16, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sought, and failed to achieve, unanimous consent to pass legislation that would have granted significant new powers to the Department of Justice to enforce compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.  In objecting to passage, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said that the Senate should “take a step

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