Over $1 Million in Illegal Contractor Contributions Refunded After CLC Complaints

Piles of $100 bills lying on top of each other

Earlier this year, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that six companies violated the federal contractor contribution ban by donating to super PACs.

The 80-year-old ban on federal contractors making political donations protects against the appearance or reality that taxpayer-funded contracts are for sale. The ban is a key defense against the formation of a pay-to-play system in which wealthy special interests are rewarded for their political contributions with lucrative government contracts.

Post-general FEC reports filed Dec.3, 2020, show that most of those contributions have been refunded:

Additionally, the Senate Leadership Fund reattributed a $25,000 contribution from Amedisys, Inc. to Amedisys Holding LLC, the parent company of the nursing home corporation, which itself does not appear to hold any federal contracts.

While FEC staff review reports filed by super PACs to verify accounting calculations and timeliness, the agency does not look for broader violations, like whether super PAC contributors receive federal contracts. Instead, it falls to groups like CLC to identify such violations of the law.

The contractor contribution ban is one area of the law that the FEC has tended to enforce and refunds may not save these contractors from civil penalties.

In recent years, the FEC has fined federal contractors tens of thousands of dollars for illegal contributions to super PACs, even despite their contributions having been refunded. With good reason: without the threat of stiff civil penalties, political donors and operatives will not be deterred from breaking the law.

Sophia is a Senior Researcher/Investigator on CLC's Campaign Finance/Ethics team.
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