En Banc DC Circuit Unanimously Rejects Challenge to Federal Contractor Contribution Ban

Today in Wagner v. FEC, the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously rejected an effort to overturn the 70-year-old ban on political contributions from federal contractors to federal candidates, parties and other political committees.  The Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, filed an amici brief in the case in support of the contractor contribution ban. 

“This is a major victory for democracy and we are pleased to see no dissent on the court in upholding this critical bulwark against corruption and the appearance of corruption in the awarding of government contracts,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “Longstanding legal precedent and the long and dismal history of contracting scandals clearly support the law.  Pay-to-play scandals are as old as the Republic, and this Court has again recognized the vital public interest in preventing such abuses.”   

This restriction on campaign contributions from persons and entities contracting with the federal government was enacted in 1940 to address corruption in federal contracting in the wake of persistent scandals, most notably the “Democratic campaign book” scandal.

In November 2012, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the FEC, finding that the federal ban was enacted to “prevent corruption and the appearance thereof and, in so doing, to protect the integrity of the electoral system by ensuring that federal contracts were awarded based on merit.”  But on May 31, 2013, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the district court decision on procedural grounds, holding that the plaintiffs should have instead proceeded under 2 U.S.C. § 437h (now 52 U.S.C. § 30110) to the en banc Court of Appeals.  The case was remanded to the district court, which then certified constitutional questions back to the Court of Appeals.  Oral argument was heard by the full D.C. Circuit Court on September 30, 2014.  

The Legal Center, along with Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, filed amici briefs in this case in the district court and twice in the Court of Appeals in defense of the contractor contribution ban.

To read the opinion of the D.C. Circuit Court issued today, click here.

To read the amici brief filed with the en banc D.C. Circuit Court by the Legal Center, along with Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, click here.