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FCW Insider: No government contractor money in the presidential race

So there has been much written about the money raised by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)  -- he has raised a lot of it. And he has been particularly effective at using the Internet to raise small amounts of money. (You can see more about money Obama has raised at the Center for Responsive Politics's OpenSecrets.org. In fact, they OpenSecrets.org also has information on Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Even more fun, the HuffingtonPost has the top 10 celebrity supporters of both Obama and Clinton.)

But somebody pointed out to me that he specifically refuses to take money from federal contractors.

From Obama's donation Web page, when you make a donation, you must agree to the following:

  1. I am a United States citizen or a lawfully-admitted permanent resident.

  2. I am at least 16 years old.

  3. This contribution is not made from the general treasury funds of a corporation, labor organization or national bank.

  4. This contribution is not made from the funds of a political action committee.

  5. This contribution is not made from the treasury of an entity or person who is a federal contractor.

  6. This contribution is not made from the funds of an individual registered as a federal lobbyist or a foreign agent, or an entity that is a federally registered lobbying firm or foreign agent.

  7. The funds I am donating are not being provided to me by another person or entity for the purpose of making this contribution.

In case you missed number 5... "This contribution is not made from the treasury of an entity or person who is a federal contractor."


It spurred me to check the other candidates.

Clinton also does not accept money from federal government contractors. Her eligibility statement:

This contribution is made from my own funds, and not those of another.
This contribution is not made from the general treasury funds of a corporation, labor organization or national bank.
I am not a Federal government contractor.
I am not a foreign national who lacks permanent resident status in the United States.
I am at least 18 years of age.
This contribution is made on a personal credit or debit card for which I have the legal obligation to pay, and is made neither on a corporate or business entity card nor on the card of another.

(If you needed evidence that the Clinton campaign needs money, the front page HillaryClinton.com goes straight to the donation page.)

McCain is slightly more nuanced. He does not take money from federal government contractors, but he will take money from employees of government contractors. Here is McCain's statement:

By checking this box, I certify that: (1) This contribution is made from my own funds and will not be reimbursed by any other person or entity; (2) This contribution is not made from the treasury funds of a corporation, labor union, or national bank; (3) I am a U.S. citizen or lawfully admitted permanent U.S. resident; (4) I am not personally a federal-government contractor (employees of government contractors may contribute); and (5) I agree that my contribution will be designated according to the description at the bottom of this page.

To be honest, I have no idea if this is new or not...or if it is required by law. I'm not that much of an expert on campaign finance laws.

Federal government employees, of course, are covered by the Hatch Act, which prohibits employees from actively participating in partisan political campaigns. (I have italicized the ones of particular interest to this topic.)

Here is the list of what feds can do... and can't do...

Permitted/Prohibited Activities for Employees Who May Participate in Partisan Political Activity

These federal and D.C. employees may-
* be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections
* register and vote as they choose
* assist in voter registration drives
* express opinions about candidates and issues
* contribute money to political organizations
* attend political fundraising functions
* attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
* join and be an active member of a political party or club
* sign nominating petitions
* campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances
* campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections
* make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
* distribute campaign literature in partisan elections
* hold office in political clubs or parties

These federal and D.C. employees may not-
* use official authority or influence to interfere with an election
* solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency
* solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations)
* be candidates for public office in partisan elections
* engage in political activity while:
>on duty in a government office
>wearing an official uniform
>using a government vehicle
* wear partisan political buttons on duty

I get the Hatch Act, of course. For what it is worth, I have never fully understood so-called campaign finance reform. It always seems to me that every effort to separate politics and money fails...and fails miserably. Personally, I would much rather just see the list of people who donated to a person's campaign and how much they donated. That tells me a whole lot about the candidate -- and the people supporting the candidate. (You'll always find some people giving to multiple candidates -- giving to both Republicans and Democrats.) Furthermore, I'm a big believer in the First Amendment and these laws seem to infringe on those rights.

All of that being said, it is interesting that all three candidates are not taking money from federal contractors.

Update: I got an update from a regular reader.

Re your blog post today:  no, the requirement is not new; it has been in effect for many years, but I don't know how many.   Individuals, including individuals banding together through a political action committee (PAC), may contribute to candidates or parties.  For companies, it is verboten, as you note

Unfortunately, numerous articles in the MSM and trade press that touch on this topic get it wrong consistently, and in breathless headlines and copy refer to companies contributing to candidates and parties.  In the MSM, I'll pick on the Best Political Team on Television, and in print, some large dailies make the same gaffe,  

When the Insider has has analyzed contributions from employees of well known contractors, the surprise to me has been how many contributors within firms are dominated by Democrats, or pretty much mirror the electorate.  So much for the legend that govt contractors are solidly/mainly Republican.  But we need to remember that political contributors are self-selected and hard to analyze demographically or in terms of their corporate influence.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Apr 24, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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