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First Significant Pay-to-Play Legislation for the District of Columbia Approved by D.C. Council

On December 4, the D.C. Council unanimously approved the first significant pay-to-play law for Washington, D.C.  The restriction would apply to contractors with—or seeking—one or more contracts with an aggregate value of $250,000 or more.  The legislation will be considered by the Mayor and would be subject to a 30-day period of congressional review.

The Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2018 (B22-0107) includes several revisions to the District’s campaign finance law, including increased disclosure for independent expenditures.  Perhaps the most significant change is a new restriction on campaign contributions by contractors doing business with the District, and by prospective contractors seeking to do business with the District.

Under the new law, the District would be prohibited from entering into a contract if the contractor made a covered contribution to a covered official during the “prohibited period.”  Covered contributions are contributions from the contractor or its senior officers, such as the president, executive director, CEO, COO, or CFO.  Which District candidates are considered “covered officials” depends on who oversees the contract in question.  For example, if the contract must be approved by the D.C. Council, all candidates for D.C. Council would be considered covered officials.  Mayoral candidates and candidates for Attorney General would be covered officials if the contract is with an agency subordinate to either the Mayor or the Attorney General, respectively.

In most cases, the ban on contributions would begin on the date of the contract solicitation, and, for successful bidders, would continue in effect for different periods depending on the nature of the contract.

Type of Contract Duration of Restriction*
  • Sale of goods, services, construction, purchases & sales of land or buildings.
  • One year after termination of the contract.
  • Lease of land or buildings, licensing arrangement, loan.
  • One year after entering into the contract.
  • Surplus and disposition of land or buildings, tax exemption or abatement.
  • One year after the effective date of the relevant legislation approved by the D.C. Council.

Duration of restriction for successful bidders.  The ban for unsuccessful bidders is shorter.

We will continue to monitor developments regarding this legislation, including action by Mayor Muriel Bowser, who, as reported by The Washington Post, has thus far declined to take a position on the legislation.

© 2018 Covington & Burling LLP

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About this Author

Kevin Glandon, Insurance litigation attorney, Covington
Associate

Kevin Glandon represents clients in complex, high-stakes litigation, primarily as an advocate for policyholders seeking recovery. He also aids clients in responding to congressional investigations and counsels clients regarding sensitive and nuanced questions of political and election law in civil, criminal, ethics, and internal investigation matters.

Mr. Glandon’s expertise in political and election law includes the Federal Election Campaign Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s pay-to-play rules, Senate and House ethics rules, and numerous state and...

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