Federal Contractors Continue to Ignore Contribution Ban and Donate to Super PACs

A man in a suit holding up his hand to refuse a wad of money being handed to him by another man off-camera

Government contractors are prohibited from making political contributions – a long-standing ban put in place to prevent influence-peddling and corruption in the contracting process. Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed six complaints alleging that active federal contractors violated the ban by giving money to super political action committees (PACs.)

The contractor contribution ban protects against a pay-to-play system in which wealthy special interests are rewarded for their political contributions with lucrative government contracts. This, in turn, helps prevents the reality or appearance that taxpayer-funded contracts are for sale.

CLC identified six federal contractors that made illegal contributions to super PACs:

It is possible that the contractors made the illegal contributions expecting to get away with violating the ban, given the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) reticence to uphold the law. But the commission has shown a willingness to enforce the ban in recent years. 

CLC has long tracked this concerning trend and has filed a number of successful complaints that have resulted in penalties from the FEC. For example, earlier this year, the FEC fined Alpha Marine Services $17,000 for contributing to Congressional Leadership Fund in response to a CLC complaint, even after the super PAC returned the contractor’s $100,000 illegal contribution.

Similarly, the FEC fined federal contractor Ring Power Corporation $9,500 last year for giving to a super PAC supporting Sen. Rick Scott after CLC filed a complaint with the commission.

And in 2016, in response to a complaint from CLC, the FEC fined contractor Suffolk Construction Company $34,000 for illegally contributing $200,000 to the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton’s campaign. 

The FEC is responsible for enforcing the laws that govern the U.S. campaign finance system, and it must act to enforce the ban to discourage future violations.

Sophia is a Senior Researcher/Investigator on CLC's Campaign Finance/Ethics team.
Guarding Against Pay-to-Play in Federal Contracts