There are many nuanced, obscure, and bizarre points to campaign finance law but there is one area that is crystal clear and easy to understand. Your employer may not reimburse you for making political contributions.
Contributions in the Name of Another
Contributions made in the name of another are prohibited. For example, an individual who has already contributed up to the limit for a candidate’s election may not give money to another person to make a contribution to the same candidate. Similarly, a corporation is prohibited from using bonuses or other methods of reimbursing employees for their contributions.
When the Boston Globe looked into the subject they found that in at least one major Boston law firm, the law was being blatantly ignored:
The Thorton Law Firm in Boston, MA was recently ranked as one of the top law firms in the nation for political contributions. Law firm records reportedly show millions of dollars in contributions over the past several years to major Democratic Party politicians, including Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren. On Saturday evening, the Boston Globe published the results of its investigation into the firm’s contributions and what the newspaper uncovered raises a number of red flags with campaign finance law experts.
According to the Globe’s lengthy report, the newspaper uncovered a pattern of “bonus” payments made to partners that exactly equaled the amount of a partner’s monetary contribution to a political candidate. For example, law firm records from 2010 reportedly show partner David C. Strouss received a “bonus” payment for $2,400 from the firm on the same day that other records show Strouss donated $2,400 to the campaign of Montana Senator Jon Tester. Throughout its larger review of records, reporters found more than 280 examples where political contributions exactly matched bonuses paid to law firm partners.
An update to the story indicates it has had an effect.
New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan, who is currently in a tight Senate race with Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, told the Boston Globe on Sunday she will return $51,000 she received in donations from the law firm.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that Senate candidate Russ Feingold will also return $45,000 in contributions his campaign received from the law firm.
Missouri Senate candidate Jason Kander announced on Monday his campaign will write a $25,000 check to the U.S. Treasury to cover he amount of donations he received from the Thorton Law Firm. Additionally, Nevada Democratic candidate Catherine Cortez Masto and Pennsylvania Democratic candidate Katie McGinty each announced plans to return donations they received.
The Hill is reporting that Florida Senate candidate Patrick Murphy will return $21,800 in donations.
Will the FEC impose sanctions? Not a chance. Law firms like Thornton are where FEC lawyers want to go and the FEC professional staff acts like the ladies auxiliary to the Democrat party so there is a fat chance they are going punish allies and a prospective future employer.