Confusion exists because neither the FEC nor the courts has ruled on whether the ban on government contractors making political campaign contributions is still valid.
The ban was created in 1940 to stop politicians from shaking down government vendors and to stop contractors from bribing politicians to get contracts.
The law does permit company political-action committees, funded by employee contributions, to make limited donations to political campaigns.
However, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which said corporations may give unlimited amounts of money to certain political groups, opened a deluge of corporate giving to the super-PACs. Because the decision was silent on government contractors, most major super-PACs took that to mean contractors were still covered by the ban.
But not Restore Our Future, which should be held accountable for testing the contractor ban.
Meanwhile, the president could help clarify matters by reconstructing the FEC, which has five of its six members serving in expired terms. The commission keeps deadlocking along party lines on key issues such as regulating super-PACs.
Obama needs to make appointments that can be approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate, so the FEC can tell Restore Our Future in no uncertain terms that donations from government contractors are still outlawed.