A “super PAC” that has spent more than $35 million on behalf of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has accepted donations from federal contractors despite a 36-year-old ban against such companies making federal political expenditures. At least five companies with government contracts gave a combined $890,000 to Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super PAC, a review of federal contracting records and campaign finance data shows. Other super PACs, including Republican-allied American Crossroads, and Priorities USA Action, which backs President Obama, have language on their websites warning that federal contractors are not allowed to make donations. Restore Our Future does not list the prohibition on its website.
Several contributors — including a Florida aerospace company that has contracts with the Defense Department, and a Boston-based construction company that is helping build a Navy base — are taking advantage of a legal gray area created by the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case, which said that independent political expenditures could not be regulated based on who was making them.
Federal courts and the Federal Election Commission, which is responsible for enforcing the federal contractor ban, have yet to decide whether it is still valid. That leaves the legality of such contributions in question, though several election law experts believe the ban will be found unconstitutional. “It’s a risk judgment that clients need to make,” said Robert Kelner, a Washington lawyer who advises corporations on political law compliance.