Guarding Against Pay-to-Play in Federal Contracts


At a Glance

The federal contractor ban, which has been in place for over 75 years, prohibits government contractors from making federal political contributions to avoid the appearance or reality that taxpayer-funded contracts are for sale. CLC is working to ensure that this important protection against pay-to-play is followed and enforced.

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The Latest

By Emily Davis, a Summer 2022 CLC intern

Companies spend on political contributions and lobbying to influence elections and advance their policy goals.

Most of this spending is legal, but there are important, necessary legal barriers that help preserve the integrity of the democratic process.

For instance, corporations cannot give directly...

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About this Action

For 75 years, federal government contractors have been prohibited from making federal political contributions. The ban protects against the appearance or reality that taxpayer-funded contracts are for sale, and has been upheld by courts as an important protection against pay-to-play in the contracting process, even as courts have struck down other campaign finance laws.

The FEC has generally enforced the contractor contribution ban, including against contractors that contribute to super PACs. However, the agency is not actively reviewing campaign finance reports for illegal contractor contributions; it falls on independent watchdogs like CLC to identify illegal contributions and file complaints with the FEC.

Given the FEC’s general reputation for dysfunction, some federal contractors might believe that they can illegally give to super PACs and get away with it. CLC is working to ensure that they cannot.

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