A Hillary Clinton super PAC accepted two $100,000 donations from a government contractor in violation of federal election law, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The FEC investigated a complaint from The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed this spring and found that Suffolk Construction Company, Inc. violated federal election laws with payments to Priorities USA Action, a Clinton affiliated super PAC, “by making prohibited federal contractor contributions,” according to a September 25 FEC letter to the Center.
The FEC also determined that the Clinton super PAC didn’t ask for the money, so case closed.
“On September 20, 2017, the Commission accepted the signed conciliation agreement with Suffolk. On that same date, the Commission found no reason to believe that Priorities USA Action and Greg Speed in his official capacity as treasurer violated (the law) by knowingly soliciting the federal contractor contributions at issue.
“Accordingly, the Commission has closed the file in this matter,” the letter read.
The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 told Courthouse News the FEC leveled a $34,000 fine for making two $100,000 contributions to the Clinton linked super PAC in 2015 – perhaps the first time the government has fined a federal contractor for illegal contributions to a super PAC.
“Hopefully this decision by the FEC deters companies with business before the government from attempting to buy influence in the future,” Democracy 21 attorney Donald Simon said in a prepared statement.
The lawsuit against Priorities USA Action makes it clear the company wasn’t very slick with its donations, but it’s made a lot of money from the government.
It alleges the company used the same address for the donations it lists with a federal contractor database, and
“According to USAspending.gov, a U.S. government website that lists federal contracts and grants, Suffolk Construction Company, Inc. has been awarded a total of $976,560 in U.S. government contracts in Fiscal Year 2016 (which runs October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016), in the form of five contracts with the Department of Defense,” the lawsuit read.
It also points to a 2016 report in The Hill that noted Suffolk Construction “since 2008 has received $169.7 million in federal contracts, according to USASpending.gov.”
“We applaud the FEC for upholding the integrity of the contractor contribution ban,” said Brendan Fischer, the Campaign Legal Center’s director of federal and FEC reform. “The reason federal contractors have been banned for 75 years from making political contributions is to prevent pay-to-play in the contracting process.”
The Center for Public Integrity couldn’t get in touch of anyone at Suffolk Construction to provide a comment about the big settlement, but the site noted company spokesman Dan Antonellis last year “blamed the Priorities USA Action contributions on ‘internal accounting … ambiguity.’”
The illegal donation to Priorities USA Action wasn’t the only time Suffolk was caught greasing the skids. The company’s charitable arm gave $250,000 to Correct the Record, which worked directly with the Clinton’s campaign, Public Integrity reports.
Both Priorities USA Action and Correct the Record eventually returned the donations.
And while Priorities USA Action spent more than $126 million on attack ads, the lawsuit points out it would be hard for PAC officials to miss the massive payments, which they allegedly kept for several months.
“Suffolk Construction Company, Inc.’s $200,000 in contributions put the company among Priorities USA Action’s top donors for the 2016 election cycle,” according to the lawsuit, which also alleged Priorities USA Action broke the law by failing to refund the illegal donations within 30 days.