Politics

Federal Contractors Made Illegal Pro-Trump Super PAC Contributions, Complaint Says

Watchdog group wants FEC to investigate

Tourists from North Carolina don “Make America Great Again” hats in the Capitol Rotunda in March 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 8:43 p.m. | A politically connected contractor made a $500,000 contribution this spring to a pro-Trump super PAC the day after it received a payment of almost the same amount as part of a Department of Defense contract, a watchdog group said.

The Campaign Legal Center flagged that contribution and a $50,000 contribution from another company to a super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s Senate campaign, in separate complaints to the Federal Election Commission filed Wednesday afternoon.

The donations represent rare violations of a 75-year-old ban on campaign contributions from federal contractors, said Brendan Fischer, director of the federal reform program at the Campaign Legal Center.

“This seems like a brazen violation of well-established law,” he said. “It’s possible that both of these entities are ignorant of the federal contractor ban. But it’s also possible that they expect that they can make large contributions to fed super PACs and get away with it because the FEC has been so reticent to enforce the law.”

Federal campaign finance law prohibits companies that are bidding or hold contracts with the federal government from making federal political donations. Individuals can make unlimited contributions to super PACs.

The FEC has been subject to numerous complaints in recent years about lax enforcement and gridlock on its bipartisan panel of commissioners. FEC spokeswoman Judith Ingram said the agency could not comment on pending or potential complaints.

The contribution from Florida-based AshBritt, Inc. placed the company among the top 10 donors to America First Action, the primary super PAC dedicated to electing federal candidates who support the agenda of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, according to the Campaign Legal Center complaint. It received a $459,675 supplemental to a Department of Defense contract the day before, the complaint alleges.

AshBritt founder and chairman Randy Perkins disputed the allegations in the complaint as “absolutely not correct.”

He said he paid for the contribution from his personal money but it came from a loan distribution account that he maintains in the company name.

“There was a reporting error and that $500,000 was made by me personally, Randy Perkins, not by AshBritt,” he said.

Perkins, who unsuccessfully ran for the House as a Democrat from Florida’s 18th District in 2016, also said the supplemental to the contract referenced in the FEC complaint referred to one of many payouts to a contract that dated to September 2017.

The Florida-based AshBritt specializes in disaster relief. It has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state government contracts, including deals to help clean up after Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. While it has been praised by government officials for its work, it has also been criticized for using political muscle to secure lucrative contracts and bypass regulations.

Ring Power Corporation, the other company alleged to have made an illegal contribution, is also based in Florida. Sue Miller, a spokeswoman for the New Republican PAC which is supporting Scott’s campaign for Senate, said she was not aware of the complaint and declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for America First Action said the super PAC “takes its obligations under federal campaign finance law seriously.”

“We follow established safeguards to ensure that we are operating in full compliance with the law,” communications director Erin Montgomery said in a statement.

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