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November 17, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO, November 17, 2011 — Covington & Burling helped secure approval from the Federal Election Commission today for an innovative shopping program that could change the way individuals make campaign contributions by making it easier for small donors to participate in the political process.
Headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., GivingSphere allows shoppers to earn cash rebates on purchases at participating retailers and use those funds for donations to groups they support, including political candidates and political parties. Donors can search, bookmark and give to their own personal “portfolio” of causes. Created by Social Financial Inc., the GivingSphere Web site is expected to launch in December 2011.
Covington advised and represented Social Financial in the commission’s proceedings. Drawing on expertise in election law and the Internet, lawyers in the firm’s Silicon Valley and Washington offices worked with GivingSphere to design a system that won FEC approval today.
“We are proud to have worked with GivingSphere to attain the FEC’s approval of this innovative political donation platform, breaking new ground in the area of technology, law and politics,” said Andrew Byrnes, a partner in Covington’s Silicon Valley office.
Robert Lenhard, of counsel in the firm’s Washington office and former chair of the FEC, called the decision a victory for small donors. “The FEC has repeatedly shown that it is willing to craft rules that insure individuals can use the Web to participate meaningfully in the political process,” he said.
The team also included Derek Lawlor, an associate in the firm’s Washington office.
William Spazante, co-founder and CEO of GivingSphere, said the Covington attorneys were instrumental in guiding the company to the “starting line.”
“They understood the technology. They understood what we were trying to do,” he said. “We think of them as our partners in this.”