Michigan Company That Contracts With Federal Government Agrees to Return Illegal $10K Contribution Following CLC Complaint

WASHINGTON – Today, a Michigan company that contracts with the federal government agreed to refund a $10,000 contribution it made to a super PAC supporting John James, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Michigan, following a complaint filed by Campaign Legal Center (CLC) to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The Detroit News reported today that the company, which highlights its government contract work on its website, was unaware of the ban and wanted to abide by the law.

“Taxpayers in Michigan should be heartened to know that the ban on pay-to-play in government contracting is still intact,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal reform at CLC. “Watchdog groups and the media have an important role to play to ensure that campaign finance laws are being followed by political operatives and donors, who have proven willing to push the legal envelope. But meanwhile, government contractors like private prison company GEO Group continue to illegally buy influence by bankrolling super PACs.”

While the FEC is mired in partisan infighting and dysfunction, it does have a history of punishing government contractors for making donations to political committees. Following a complaint by the Campaign Legal Center, the FEC fined Boston-based Suffolk Construction Co., a federal contractor, for giving $200,000 to Priorities USA, a super PAC that supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. Notably, that fine was imposed even though Priorities USA had refunded the contribution.

CLC has long pointed to the problem of government contractors giving to political campaigns.

The FEC is still sitting on a complaint against GEO Group, one of the world’s largest private prison companies and a major federal contractor, for giving $225,000 to a super PAC supporting Trump in 2016. That same company became the first beneficiary of a new private prison contract in the Trump Administration, receiving a $110 million federal contract to build a 1,000-bed immigrant detention center in Texas.

More recently, CLC filed two complaints after federal contractor Ashbritt Inc. gave $500,000 to the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, and a contractor called Ring Power gave $50,000 to a super PAC supporting Florida U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott.