Wednesday, July 6, 2016
A pro-Clinton Super PAC was hit with a Federal Election Commission complaint on Wednesday for accepting $200,000 in contributions from a government-contracting firm, a potential violation of campaign finance laws.
The Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group, filed the FEC complaint on Wednesday against Priorities USA, a Super PAC that has spent $30 million in support of Hillary Clinton.
Priorities USA accepted the donations from the Boston-based Suffolk Construction, Inc., a company that held nearly $1 million in federal contracts, the Center for Public Integrity first reported in April. Campaign finance laws bar candidates and Super PACs from taking contributions from federal contractors, in order to deter influence buying.
But the Campaign Legal Center criticized Priorities USA’s decision to accept the money in the first place, and questioned why the Super PAC declined to return the contribution when it was first reported in April.
The watchdog group asked the FEC to “investigate and impose appropriate sanctions on both Priorities USA and Suffolk Construction Company.”
“If it wasn’t for news reports highlighting these violations of the law, we’d never know if Priorities USA Action would have still refunded those contributions,” said Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center in a statement.
“Super PACs and their deep-pocketed donors should not be allowed to skirt and violate the laws we have in place to protect the integrity of our democracy. This is exactly why Americans don’t have confidence in our political process, and why there is overwhelming support for reforming our campaign finance system, which includes a strong, effective FEC that enforces the law.”
Democracy 21, another campaign finance watchdog group, also called for an FEC investigation in a statement on Wednesday.
“Priorities USA Action had a duty at the time it accepted two illegal contributions from Suffolk Construction Company in 2015 to determine if it could accept these contributions and the Super PAC apparently failed to perform that duty,” said Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer.
Suffolk Construction made two $100,000 contributions to Priorities USA since last December, during a time when it had contracts with the Department of Defense.
The company told the Hill that it mistakenly believed the federal contract was completed at the time the donations were made.
“We notified the [Priorities USA] Committee of this ambiguity and they decided to return their contribution,” said a Suffolk Construction spokesperson on July 1.