Brian D. Smith

Brian D. Smith

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.

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D.C. Circuit Strikes Down FAA Registration Rule for Recreational Drones

On May 19, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit invalidated a Federal Aviation Administration regulation that required the owners of recreational drones—unmanned aircraft system (“UAS”)—to register with the agency.  The court held that the regulation violated the same law that the FAA had used, in part, to justify the requirement.  The … Continue Reading

The Gowdy Era of Congressional Investigations

With the announcement by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) that he plans to resign from Congress on June 30, it appears increasingly likely that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) will become the next Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the House’s powerful watchdog committee that has very broad investigative jurisdiction.  Although a final … Continue Reading

D.C. Circuit Dismisses Major Case Concerning Attorney-Client Privilege in Congressional Investigations

The long saga of the legal challenge by Carl Ferrer, CEO of Backpage.com, to a subpoena issued by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (“PSI”) appears to have reached a conclusion.  A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit this week dismissed the case as moot and additionally vacated a series of … Continue Reading

The Latest Twist in the Backpage Litigation and its Implications for the Attorney-Client Privilege in Congressional Investigations

Litigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to enforce a subpoena for documents from Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage, an online forum accused of contributing to sex trafficking, has taken another interesting twist, with the D.C. District Court ruling that Backpage cannot assert the attorney-client privilege to protect certain documents.  It is rare … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Refuses to Stay Senate Subpoena, Highlights the Difficulties Inherent in Challenging a Congressional Subpoena

The Supreme Court today refused to block a subpoena by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the online forum Backpage and its CEO Carl Ferrer. As we previously reported, Ferrer lost at the District Court in his effort to block the Senate subpoena, arguing primarily that the subpoena abridged his First Amendment rights.  Ferrer … Continue Reading

The Senate’s District Court Win in the Backpage Subpoena Fight Could Have Significant Implications for Congressional Investigations

Last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in a rare case that has the potential to contribute significantly to the case law concerning congressional investigations. It is uncommon for a federal court to have an opportunity to rule on a congressional … Continue Reading

Federal Aviation Administration Finalizes Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) finalized its long-awaited rule on the commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS” or “drones”).  The rule is significant because it provides a comprehensive and generally applicable set of rules for anyone wishing to operate a small drone for commercial purposes. Before the adoption … Continue Reading

Looking Forward After the FAA’s Drone Registration Regulation

On December 14, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a significant regulation that requires all owners of small unmanned aircraft systems – between 0.55 and 55 pounds – to register with the agency. News outlets have good summaries of the rules, so we only recap them here. An individual who owns a drone before December … Continue Reading

Revenue from Drone Videos Could Convert Hobbyists into Commercial Operators, FAA Says

Last July, we raised the question of whether advertising revenue from hobbyists’ drone videos posted on YouTube could constitute commercial operations of a drone.  At the time, we noted that some hobbyists’ videos were preceded by advertisements, indicating that the videos were likely part of YouTube’s Partner Program, where a portion of the advertising revenue … Continue Reading

President’s Cuba Announcement Presents Commercial Opportunity, Test of Executive Power

President Obama’s announcement that the United States is “changing its relationship with the people of Cuba” has been welcomed by many in the business community, who continue to await regulatory amendments that will implement the new policy.  (For background on the President’s announcement, please see our client alert of December 17, 2014 and our audio … Continue Reading

President Obama Announces Executive Action on Immigration, while Congress Considers its Response

In remarks last night, President Obama announced his long-planned executive actions to reform the U.S. immigration system.  The President will sign the first of such orders today, despite intense opposition from Republicans in Congress, who believe that the President’s actions are outside the law and contrary to Congress’s authority to legislate federal immigration policy.  In … Continue Reading

FAA Can Regulate and Fine Drone Operators, the NTSB Says

Individuals who operate drones are subject to FAA regulations that prohibit careless and reckless operation of an aircraft, the National Transportation Safety Board ruled on November 18, 2014.  In reaching its conclusion, the NTSB overturned a closely watched ruling by an administrative law judge, who previously held that regulations for “aircraft” did not apply to … Continue Reading

Executive Action on Immigration

Following my recent post about the midterm elections and prospects for immigration reform, I was interviewed by LexBlog TV’s Colin O’Keefe about the impending executive action on immigration coming from the White House.  In the interview, I explain President Obama’s strategy for unilateral executive action and how Congress will likely respond:… Continue Reading

FARA Again in the Spotlight: New York Times Examines Foreign Funding and Think Tanks

This weekend, the New York Times ran a lengthy investigative report on foreign government donations to U.S. think tanks.  The story alleged that the foreign governments bought influence and paid for advocacy by some of the nation’s most respected research institutions.  The article outlined contributions from Norway, UAE, Qatar, Japan, and others to think tanks including the … Continue Reading

Lobbyists Can Now Sit on Some Federal Advisory Committees: Here’s How to Find Out Where

In a significant reversal by the Obama administration, lobbyists will now be permitted to serve on federal advisory committees, boards, and commissions after more than four years of sitting on the advisory committee sidelines. In guidance published in the Federal Register today, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) quietly revised, in large part, the … Continue Reading

July 4th Puts the FAA Drone Policy to the Test

Dramatic videos posted over the holiday weekend show fireworks displays that were filmed from drones.  The videos are remarkable, with the drones often flying within the sweep of the exploding shells.  Burning fireworks frequently zoom past the cameras.  We found drone fireworks videos from Decatur, Ga., Lake Martin, Ala., Oak Mountain State Park, Ala., and … Continue Reading

The FAA’s Commercial Drone Approval is Significant, but Bigger Issues Remain

On Tuesday, June 10, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it had authorized the first commercial drone operation over land in the United States.  The approval permits energy company BP to operate drones to survey pipelines, roads, and equipment at the oilfield at Prudhoe Bay, along the north Arctic Ocean coast of Alaska.  The … Continue Reading

Is Lobbying Reform Looking More Likely?

In the past week, the Association of Government Relations Professionals (formerly the American League of Lobbyists) announced its endorsement of tougher disclosure requirements for lobbyists, and Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Close the Revolving Door Act of 2014, which would permanently ban former Members of Congress from becoming lobbyists.  This … Continue Reading

2013 GAO Lobbying Disclosure Report Shows Challenges in Compliance, Recordkeeping

Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its 2013 report on compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA), summarizing the audits of 104 lobbyist reports and information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. We see several trends in this year’s report.  First, registrants are reporting more difficulties complying … Continue Reading
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