Watchdogs File in Defense of Contractor Contribution Ban

Today, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, filed an amici brief in Wagner v. FEC in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to oppose an effort to overturn the 70-year-old ban on political contributions from federal contractors to federal candidates, parties and other political committees. 

“Multiple courts nationwide have recognized the inherent susceptibility of the government contracting process to corruption and have repeatedly upheld federal, state and local restrictions on contractor campaign contributions,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “Plaintiffs ask the Court of Appeals to ignore both this legal precedent and the realities of the pay-to-play system and overturn the longstanding contractor contribution ban.  The federal ban is a bulwark against corruption and a check on the seemingly endless string of scandals that has seen government officials going to jail for almost as long as government contracts have been handed out.”

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 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 pursuant to Section 437h.    

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

To read the amici brief filed today by the groups, click here.