Contractor scrutinized for giving $10K to James super PAC

Detroit News

A campaign finance watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the Holland-based Haworth Co. for contributing $10,000 to U.S. Senate hopeful John James’ super political action committee. 

The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center says that, as a federal government contractor, Haworth is prohibited from donating to candidates and super PACs under a federal law in force for more than 75 years meant to guard against pay-to-play in government contracting. 

The Washington-based Campaign Legal Center filed its complaint Thursday, noting that Haworth's contribution listed the address of its corporate headquarters at 1 Haworth Center in Holland, Michigan. 


"I don’t see any legitimate argument that this is contribution came from a non-contracting entity," said Brendan Fischer, director of the CLC's Federal Reform Program.

Julie Smith, a spokeswoman for Haworth, said Thursday that "at the time of the donation, it was communicated to Haworth that a donation by the company was permitted."

"As a result of the news article published today, the donation is being refunded until more clarity can be obtained surrounding this matter," Smith said by email.

Fischer said the federal ban adopted decades ago was intended to end the "long record of government contracts effectively being for sale."

"The federal government spends billions of dollars every year on taxpayer-funded contracts, and those contracting decisions are supposed to be made in what’s in the public interest, not in the interests of particular politicians' top political donors." 

Fischer's group has noticed an uptick in contractor contributions this election cycle, he said.

"One possibility is contractors think they can get away with it. That the FEC is viewed as so dysfunctional, that political operatives and donors think that they can push the legal envelope with little fear of recourse from the FEC," Fischer said. 

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