Joseph M. Birkenstock



Joseph M. Birkenstock is a member in Caplin & Drysdale's Washington, D.C. office. He joined the firm in 2005 after serving as Chief Counsel of the Democratic National Committee and practicing political law with a firm in Los Angeles.


Mr. Birkenstock focuses on advising corporations, non-profit organizations, candidates, officeholders, and other clients in structuring new political efforts and administering their political, lobbying, and issue-advocacy projects. He also helps clients respond to controversies involving issues of political law such as alleged campaign finance improprieties, conflicts of interest, and real or perceived violations of other legal and ethical obligations.


While at the DNC, Mr. Birkenstock worked closely with the party's fundraisers and campaign staff to help ensure their compliance with the myriad of state and federal laws governing their activities. He took primary responsibility for responding to several investigations into Democratic Party fundraising following the 1996 presidential election. He also assisted in the litigation and public relations efforts surrounding the 2000 Florida recount and helped implement the DNC's transition to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance regime.

Professional Activities

Mr. Birkenstock speaks before many professional associations and conferences. His recent engagements include:

• Speaker, Political Outreach Considersations: PACs, SuperPACs, and Beyond, Financial Services Roundtable, Washington, D.C. (June 2012)

• Lecturer at The University of Virginia Law School, where he teaches an upper-level seminar on the Law of Politics

• Lectured or appeared on panels at The George Washington University Law School, George Mason University School of Law, Vanderbilt Law School and the Pepperdine University School of Law

Awards & Honors

Best Lawyers in America®, 2010-2014

Super Lawyers®, 2013

Chambers USA®, 2010-2013

• DC's Best Lawyers in Washingtonian Magazine, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012

Recent Media

Mr. Birkenstock has been published or quoted in the media including the Associated Press,, and, legal niche media such as the Election Law Journal and the American Lawyer Media publications, as well as more narrowly focused media outlets including The Daily Tax Report and The Capitol Weekly.

Obama Site Tested Early on Non-Partisan Promise, POLITICO (February 8, 2013)

Was Paying Off Clinton's Debt Legal?, POLITICO (January 30, 2013)

Romney Faces Sale With a Win, Wall Street Journal (November 2, 2012)

End of the 'Tell President Obama' Ads?, NPR (August 30, 2012)

Tandem Press Briefings, POLITICO (July 11, 2012)

Super PAC Craze Sweeps the Nation, The Hill (February 16, 2012)

Power for Sale Cheap, Forbes (February 15, 2012)

The Rise of the Hispanic Super PAC, The Hill (January 31, 2012)

For a comprehensive list of Mr. Birkenstock's mentions in the media, please click here.

Recent Publications

• Corporate Participation in the U.S. Political Process: Unique Issues for U.S. Subsidiaries of Global Companies, Organization for International Investment (Spring 2013)

• Three Can Keep a Secret, If Two of Them Are Dead: A Thought Experiment Around Compelled Public Disclosure of "Anonymous" Political Expenditures, University of Virginia Journal of Law and Politics (Summer, 2012)

• Co-Editor (with Trevor Potter) of the Political Activity, Lobbying Laws, and Gift Rules Guide (West Publishing, Third Edition 2008, Second Edition 1999)

Other Professional Affiliations

American Bar Association

California Political Attorneys Association


Political Law Alert
Amended MSRB Rules G-37 and G-8 Require Enhanced Disclosure
April 4, 2013

Political Law Alert
GAO Report Highlights Concerns Over Political Intelligence Disclosure
April 4, 2013

Political Law Alert
FEC Increases Contribution Limits
January 30, 2013

Political Law Alert
SEC & Massachusetts Sanction Goldman Sachs $16 Million, Underscoring Need for Vigorous Compliance With Pay-to-Play Rules
September 27, 2012

Political Law Alert
DC Circuit Refuses to Stay Lower Court Ruling Requiring Disclosure of Funders of "Electioneering Communications"
May 15, 2012

Political Law Alert
President Obama Signs STOCK Act Into Law
April 5, 2012

Political Law Alert
Senate-Passed "STOCK Act" Requires "Political Intelligence Consultants" to Register and Report under Lobbying Disclosure Act
February 7, 2012

Exempt Organizations Alert
ALERT: The Gift Tax and Contributions to Section 501(c)(4) Organizations
July 11, 2011

Exempt Organizations Alert
ALERT: The Gift Tax and Contributions to Section 501(c)(4) Organizations: Less than Meets the Eye?
June 14, 2011

Political Law Alert
ALERT: The FEC Updates Contribution Limits
February 7, 2011

Political Law Alert
ALERT: House and Senate Respond to Citizens United Ruling
April 30, 2010

Political Law Alert
ALERT: Schumer, Van Hollen Outline Legislative Response to Citizens United
February 12, 2010

Political Law Alert
ALERT: Practical Impact and Longer Term Consequences of Citizens United v. FEC
January 25, 2010

Political Law Alert
ALERT: Caplin & Drysdale Submits Comments to SEC on Proposed Pay to Play Law
October 8, 2009

Political Law Alert
ALERT: Securities and Exchange Commission's Proposed Pay to Play Rule
October 1, 2009

Political Law Alert
ALERT: Proposed SEC Pay-to-Play Rule Will Soon Be Available for Public Comment
July 22, 2009

Political Law Alert
ALERT: Congress Issues Clarification on Conditions for Lobbyist Termination
June 22, 2009

Political Law Alert
ALERT: Obama Administration Restricts Lobbying on Stimulus Spending
March 26, 2009

Political Law Alert
ALERT: New FEC Registration Forms Available; Lobbyist PACs Must Amend by March 29, 2009
March 12, 2009

Political Law Alert
ALERT: Important Recent Developments on Lobbyist PACs, Obama Executive Order and LDA Registration
February 18, 2009


Areas of Practice (1)

  • Political Law

Education & Credentials

Contact Information:
202-479-1111  Phone
University Attended:
Mount St. Mary's University, B.A., 1989
Law School Attended:
George Washington University Law School, J.D., Book Review Editor, George Washington International Law Review, 1992
Year of First Admission:
U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Columbia; U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit; 1992, Maryland; 1995, District of Columbia; 2004, California
Payment Information:
  • Free Initial Consultation
  • Fixed Hourly Rates
  • Fixed Fees Available

Peer Reviews

This lawyer does not have peer reviews.

*Peer Reviews provided before April 15, 2008 are not displayed.

Washington, District of Columbia

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