Contractors claim political rights violated

Holders of personal services contracts can't contribute to federal election campaigns. Three such contractors claim the ban violates their rights.

 They may be individuals, but because they hold personal services contracts with government agencies, they are barred from making contributions to candidates and political parties involved in races for federal offices.

And they aren't happy about the restriction. In fact they filed a lawsuit Oct. 19 in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia claiming the the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the First Amendment. Under their claim, they say individual contractors are not treated the same as federal employees who can contribute.

Two of the plaintiffs were employees at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and they say they could contribute to candidates and political parties while they were federal employees.

Now though, the former employees—Lawrence Brown, who provides personal services as a human resources adviser for USAID, and Jan Miller, who is a lawyer and has personal services consulting contract with USAID—cannot contribute.

They are joined in the suit by Wendy Wagner, a professor of law the University of Texas law school, who has a contract with the Administrative Conference of the United States, an organization that helps improve the government’s rulemaking process.

They are also claiming that the individual contractors aren't treated the same as corporations with federal contracts. Under the law, corporations can set up separate funds—better known as political action committees—but individuals cannot.

“Many individuals who have government contracts are unaware of this provision which does not even allow someone to give $10 to a candidate or committee that has nothing to do with government contracts,” said Alan Morrison, co-counsel and George Washington Law School associate dean for Public Interest and Public Service.