On July 24, 2014, Inga L. Parsons and Stephen C. Leckar filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the constitutionality of the ban on contributions from government contractors. The plaintiffs contend that the ban violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment.
Plaintiffs Inga L. Parsons and Stephen C. Leckar contend that they are subject to the government contractor ban because they are panel attorneys under the Criminal Justice Act (CJA). Both assert that they are eligible to vote and would like to make lawful contributions to federal candidates running in the 2016 elections.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) prohibits any person with a government contract from making any contribution “to any political party, committee, or candidate for public office or to any person for any political purpose or use.” 2 U.S.C. §441c. This prohibition applies for the duration of any contract including the bidding process with the United States government or its agencies or departments, and includes contracts for personal services.
According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, this provision violates the Equal Protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment because it treats them differently than other individuals and corporations. For instance, FEC regulations permit officers, employees and/or stockholders of corporations with federal contracts to make contributions using personal funds. 11 CFR 115.6.
The plaintiffs also claim the ban violates the First Amendment. They argue that the ban is not sufficiently narrowly tailored because it prevents contractors from contributing to any federal candidate, even when the candidate has no connection to the relevant contract.
The plaintiffs seek the District Court’s certification of facts and constitutional issues to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and ask that court to declare the ban unconstitutional and to enjoin the Commission from enforcing it against plaintiffs. They argue that their suit is a companion case to Wagner v. FEC, in which the District Court entered a certification order on June 5, 2013. Wagner is now pending before the en banc Court of Appeals, with oral argument scheduled for September 30, 2014.