James A. Kahl

James A. Kahl

T: 202.659.6775
M: 703.307.3646
F: 202.327.6138

Mr. Kahl represents corporations, trade associations, advocacy groups, and tax-exempt organizations, as well as political action committees (PACs), ballot committees and other political committees, regarding federal and state campaign finance, lobbying, and government ethics laws and regulations.  With an extensive background working in and practicing before federal agencies, he helps clients navigate the complex regulatory maze that impacts political activity. 

Here are just some of the ways that Mr. Kahl helps Whiteford’s clients:

  • Advises clients regarding their ability to make political contributions to federal, state and local candidates using corporate, PAC or personal funds, and their ability to provide gifts or other items of value to public officials.  
  • Helps clients comply with their registration and reporting obligations under federal and state lobbying laws and the Foreign Agents Registration Act.  
  • Audits clients’ political activities, and develops tailored compliance programs and policies to minimize risks.     
  • Provides political law training programs to clients’ executives and key employees so that they understand the legal risks posed by political activities and know the steps to take to keep their employer out of trouble. 
  • Represents clients before federal and state campaign finance, lobbying and ethics regulators in regard to agency audits, investigations, advisory opinion requests, and other regulatory matters.

The entirety of his legal career has involved representing clients before or serving in senior legal positions in U.S. government agencies.   From 2002 to 2007, Mr. Kahl served as Deputy General Counsel of the Federal Election Commission.  There he helped lead the 130-person Office of General Counsel in conducting investigations of potential violations of campaign finance laws,  and advising the FEC in connection with rulemakings, advisory opinions, and audits of political committees.  

Prior to that, Mr. Kahl was a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Hopkins & Sutter, served as the principal deputy to the General Counsel at the Small Business Administration, and was the number two-ranking official at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel – the agency that enforces whistleblower protection laws and the Hatch Act across the federal government.  On a daily basis, Fortune 100 companies, major trade and professional organizations, and other entities and individuals engaged in political activities turn to Mr. Kahl for practical and cost-effective political law compliance advice and solutions.  He is a frequent speaker and author on political law issues.  Mr. Kahl also filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the prevailing party in the landmark case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Memberships & Activities

  • Member: American Bar Association
  • Member, ASAE
  • ASAE Legal Section Council Member
  • Vestry and Executive Committee Member, St. Paul's Church, Alexandria, Virignia

Presentation: "Corporate and Association Political Activity: Key 2020 Compliance Issues," Webinar, (March 2020)

Presentation: "Exempt Organizations 2019 Year in Review and Key Compliance Issues for the 2020 Election Year," Association of Corporate Counsel National Capital Region Webinar (February 2020)

Presentation: "Election Year Political Law Compliance Issues for Charitable Organizations," Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (January 2020)

Presentation: "Exploring the Opportunities and Risks of Political Activity," ASAE Association Law Symposium (June 2019)

Author: "Nonprofit Lobbying: The Rules You Need to Know," ASAE (February 2017)

Presentation: "Supporting Candidates, Growing Your PAC & Increasing the Effectiveness of Your Government Affairs Program" ASAE (May 2016)

Author: "Election 2016: Know the Rules for Supporting Candidates," ASAE (March 2016)

Quoted: "Balance Free Expression and Office Harmony in an Election Year," ASAE

Author "Citzens United, Super PACs, and Corporate Spending on Political Campaigns: How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going?" The Federal Lawyer (June 2012)

Author "Managing Risks of Corporate Political Activity," Staffing Success (November/December 2009)

Author "FEC Must Protect Commerical Speech From the Excesses of McCain-Feingold Bill," Advertising Age (October 15, 2007)


Top Five Political Law Compliance Tips for 2020

Another election year is upon us, and once again federal and state candidates are on track to raise and spend unprecedented sums for their election efforts.  That means corporations, trade associations, 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, and their leaders, members and donors will be inundated with political contribution requests.  They may also be asked to help candidates and political parties in other ways, such as hosting fundraisers or providing in-kind contributions of goods or services.
For many organizations, political engagement is not an option – decisions by federal, state and local officials may be critical to their success.  Any organization engaged in political activity must understand the basic rules of the road in order to avoid common pitfalls.  Here are our Top 5 compliance tips for addressing the political law risks facing your organization this election year.

Federal Lobbyists Must Now Disclose Past Convictions

As the April 22 deadline approaches for submitting quarterly federal lobbying reports, organizations that employ or retain lobbyists must be aware of new registration and reporting obligations.

DC Federal District Court Voids FEC Independent Expenditure Reporting Rule - Expands Donor Disclosure

In an opinion released on August 3rd, US District Court Judge Beryl Howell greatly expanded the FEC donor disclosure reporting requirements for independent groups – like Section 501(4) and 501(c)(6) organizations – that sponsor independent expenditures and other candidate advocacy communications.  The court delayed the implementation of its ruling for 45 days to give the FEC time to draft interim rules.

Stand Up and Be Heard in an Election Year

Nonprofit organizations are often overly cautious in speaking out about their causes and interacting with candidates in election years for fear of violating a complex set of laws and rules. You can and should participate in the election-year conversation. Here’s how. 

IRS Ignites Political Firestorm by Eliminating the Requirement for Most Nonprofit Organizations to Submit Confidential Donor Information to the IRS

On July 16, 2018, the IRS announced that it has eliminated the requirement for most nonprofit organizations to provide confidential donor information to the IRS on Schedule B to their annual IRS Form 990.  Although limited in scope and with no impact on public transparency, the change has significant political ramifications and has ignited a firestorm of support and condemnation across the political spectrum.  This includes a partisan Senate Finance Committee vote and delay in the Senate confirmation vote on the new IRS Commissioner.

Corporate Political Contributions Webcast

DC Partner Jim Kahl and Nancy Bukar, Sodexo Vice President of Government Affairs & Assistant General Counsel, co-presented to The Association of Corporate Counsel (National Capital Region) in a webcast last Tuesday on “Election Year Corporate Political Activity: Understanding the Legal Risks and Strategic Opportunities.”

Associations Now Features WTP Political Law Partners

A recent article in Associations Now features DC-based political Law partners Jim Kahl and Jeff Altman. “Whether you see an opportunity to advance your agenda or a need to defend members’ interests, it’s wise to reexamine your government relations strategy right now,” says Kahl. “What we know now is that a Republican majority means organizations need to be ready to respond to bills immediately,” says Altman. “With the new Congress, legislation will be passed very quickly.”

FEC Adjusts Some Political Contribution Limits for 2017-2018 Cycle

The Federal Election Commission has made minor adjustments to some of the individual and PAC contribution limits for the 2017-2018 election cycle.  The amount that individuals and non-multicandidate PACs can give to federal candidates remains at $2700 per election to each federal candidate.  Since primary and general election contests are viewed as separate “elections,” an individual or a non-multicandidate PAC may contribute a total of $5400 to a federal candidate.  The $5,000 per year individual contribution limit to PACs is also not affected.

Nonprofit Lobbying: The Rules You Need to Know

Whether your organization has a long lobbying track record or is starting fresh with a new administration, you need to know how federal lobbying, tax, and gift rules will affect your advocacy work. Here's a primer for beginners and a refresher for veterans.

The 2016 Elections and Beyond -- Last Minute Opportunities and Compliance Challenges Ahead

The final weeks of the 2016 election season continue to offer unique opportunities to drive interest and support for your industry, profession or cause. Whatever your tax status, you have a constitutionally protected right to conduct a wide range of educational, issue advocacy and lobbying activities in order to engage your members, donors, the general public, policy makers, and candidates. Trade associations and social welfare organizations can do much more to help elect their preferred candidates. Although compliance with tax, election, ethics and lobbying laws can be challenging, they also offer opportunities, not obstacles, to generate interest and support for your public policy goals in these final days of the 2016 election season and beyond. 

Our CEO Wants to Host a Candidate Fundraiser: What Are the Risks?

Every election year, corporations, associations, their PACs, and their leaders are asked to host or participate in fundraising events for federal candidates.   All incorporated entities –  corporations, trade associations, or advocacy organizations – are barred from making contributions (monetary or in-kind) to any candidate for federal office.  As we enter the heart of the 2016 election year, corporation and association leaders must make sure that their organizations know the rules for participating in federal fundraising events or risk significant monetary penalties and adverse publicity.

Election 2016: Know the Rules for Supporting Candidates

Elections pose abundant opportunities for associations to support candidates aligned with members' interests. But the law governing election-related activities by associations has shifted drastically in recent years. Before your organization supports or opposes political candidates, be sure you know the rules.

Top 5 Political Law Compliance Tips for 2016

Another election year is upon us, and once again federal and state candidates are on track to raise and spend unprecedented sums for their election efforts.  That means corporations, trade associations, 501(c)(4) advocacy organizations, their political action committees (“PACs”), leaders, members and donors will be inundated with political contribution requests.  They may also be asked to help candidates and political parties in other ways, such as hosting fundraisers or providing in-kind contributions of goods or services. 


Nonprofit Report - January 2020

Does Our Association Website Need To Be ADA Compliant? It Depends!

Top Five Political Law Compliance Tips for 2020



ASAE Association Law Symposium - WTP Speaking

On 6/4, Dorothy Deng and Jim Kahl present at the 2019 ASAE Law Symposium. Dorothy Deng speaks on “Key International Issues for Associations,” and Jim Kahl speaks on “Exploring the Opportunities and Risks of Political Activity." The event takes place at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.
For additional event information, click here.

ASAE's Association Law Symposium - WTP Speaking & Sponsoring

Jim Kahl will deliver opening remarks to attendees at ASAE's Association Law Symposium welcome breakfast. Jennifer Jackman and Tiffany Releford will co-present "Human Resources and Employment Law: Key Topics for Your Association." The presentation will focus on best practices to minimize liability for discrimination and harassment claims and review topics such as protected classes, essential policies addressing harassment and discrimination (for employees and members/directors), hiring do’s and don’ts, responding to complaints of harassment, and termination of employment.

ACC/NCR Live Webcast - Nonprofits & Associations Forum: "Maximizing Impact Through Volunteers, While Minimizing Associated Risks" - WTP Speaking & Sponsoring

Jennifer Jackman and Jim Kahl co-present a live webcast for both in-house and virtual attendees for the Association for Corporate Counsel (National Capital Region), hosted in our DC office. Jennifer and Jim will be joined by Angela Ciccolo, Chief Legal Officer of Special Olympics, and Rhonda Lees, Senior Counsel of the American Bankers Association. The presentation will focus on how to utilize volunteers to maximize an organization’s mission impact, covering best practices and compliance tips for managing volunteers. 


Whiteford Political Law Notes

We are pleased to announce the inaugural issue of Whiteford Political Law Notes -- Whiteford, Taylor & Preston’s quarterly political law newsletter. Our objective is to provide our clients and friends with concise analysis of developments in the fast-changing field of federal and state campaign finance, lobbying, tax, and government ethics laws and rules.