Commissioner Donald McGahn advises and represents elected officials, candidates, national state parties, political consultants and others on election law and related issues.
Prior to returning to Patton Boggs, where he served as an associate in the litigation group from 1995-1999, Mr. McGahn served as a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Nominated by President George W. Bush in May 2008, his nomination received unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate the following month, and in July 2008 Commissioner McGahn was elected chairman of the FEC.
During his time at the FEC, Commissioner McGahn led what has been called a “revolution” in campaign finance. He rewrote virtually all of the FEC’s procedures for audits, enforcement matters and advisory opinions, which provide for an unprecedented amount of due process. Several opinions authored by Commissioner McGahn represent the current state of law regarding issues such as coordination, issue advocacy, campaign travel, political party programs and emerging technologies.
Before his appointment to the FEC, Commissioner McGahn served as the head of McGahn & Associates PLLC, a Washington-based law practice which specialized in political law. In his capacity as head of the practice, Commissioner McGahn counseled numerous federal and state candidates, members of Congress, national and state political party committees, leadership political action committees (PACs), corporations and corporate PACs, nonprofits, trade associations and political consultants. Representations have included issues related to campaigns, including the regulation of broadcast television and radio, direct mail, telephones, defamation, polling, ballot access, voter identification, get-out-the-vote, election contests and recounts, election day operations and party conventions.
Commissioner McGahn has represented those involved in politics before the FEC, the House and Senate Ethics Committees, several state agencies, and in federal and state court as well as in connection with grand jury proceedings. He had one of the first successful defenses of a so-called 527 issue group against an FEC enforcement action. He also successfully defended a number of members of Congress before the FEC, including several members of the House leadership and committee chairs.
Commissioner McGahn served as general counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) for nearly 10 years. As general counsel, he updated the NRCC’s legal operations and compliance and introduced several innovations, including what has become the standard structure for making independent expenditures. In this role he also managed and oversaw legal issues for the party, including compliance with federal and state campaign finance laws (and the transition mandated by the passage of McCain-Feingold), defending FEC or state regulatory matters, defending and managing all civil litigation, and other related legal issues. Commissioner McGahn assisted countless House campaigns with a variety of legal issues and developed the legal architecture for the NRCC’s highly successful Battleground fundraising program as well as the innovative Young Guns program. He also led the NRCC’s redistricting efforts during the 2000s and was on-site at numerous state capitals during that time. Commissioner McGahn has represented seven NRCC chairmen in various capacities.
Commissioner McGahn has been featured in both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, which referred to him as one of the “architects of the campaign finance revolution.” His writings have appeared in national publications, including Politico, Roll Call, The Hill and the Washington Examiner. He has spoken or lectured at several law schools, including the University of Virginia, George Washington University and American University, and appeared as a keynote speaker for the Practicing Law Institute and NABPAC. Commissioner McGahn has addressed members of Congress and their senior staff at several House retreats regarding congressional ethics and appeared numerous times on television, including on Fox News, PBS and C-SPAN.