Federal Contractors Expect the FEC to Let Them Ignore Contribution Ban

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Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed three new complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that Skytron, LLC, Alpha Marine Services, and 3M Company violated the prohibition on active federal contractors making political contributions.

A prohibition that has been on the books for 75 years and repeatedly upheld, the federal contractor contribution ban protects against the appearance or reality that taxpayer-funded federal contracts are for sale. 

But Skytron, LLC a private, Michigan-based company that distributes equipment for the healthcare industry, donated $10,000 to Outsider PAC the week before the election while holding active federal contracts. Outsider PAC spent six figures on ads in the U.S. Senate race in Michigan.  

Last year, a CLC complaint resulted in Outsider PAC refunding a $10,000 contribution by yet another Michigan-based contractor. Skytron then made its own $10,000 contribution after Outsider PAC returned that earlier contribution.

As Brendan Fischer, the director of CLC’s Federal Reform Program. told The Detroit News, "Skytron should have been on notice that this was illegal, and Outsider PAC certainly was on notice that they can’t accept contributions from federal contractors."

For its part, Alpha Marine Services, a Louisiana-based tugboat manufacturing and marine transportation company, donated $100,000 to the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), the major national super PAC aligned with House Republican leadership.

At the time of the contribution, Alpha Marine Services was under multiple contracts with the Department of Defense worth tens of millions of dollars. One active contract, now worth $10 million, started less than a month before Alpha Marine’s contribution.

In 2018, CLF spent millions in congressional races across the country, including in: the 2nd congressional district of Virginia, where Alpha Marine was performing one of its active contracts.

Minnesota-based 3M Company, a technology company active in numerous industries, then donated $50,000 to the same super PAC a few months after Alpha Marine did. Like Alpha Marine, at the time of the contribution 3M held multiple federal contracts worth millions of dollars.

Following a 2016 complaint from CLC, the FEC fined contractor Suffolk Construction Company for illegally contributing $200,000 to the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action.  

CLC continues to work to identify violations and call on the FEC to enforce the law and seek appropriate sanctions for all violations.