- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A pro-Hillary Clinton political action committee broke federal law by waiting too long to return $200,000 in donations to a company that was barred from giving the money because it had business before the federal government, campaign finance watchdogs charged in a complaint to the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday.

The super PAC, Priorities USA Action, received two $100,000 contributions in 2015 from Boston-based Suffolk Construction — contributions that were subsequently returned after news reports pointed out that they could run afoul of federal law since the company has had federal government contracts.

The complaint, filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, says that Suffolk made a $100,000 contribution to the group last July 20, and another $100,000 contribution on Dec. 17, but that the company only confirmed in the last week or so that Priorities USA had returned the donations.

According to the website USAspending.gov, the company had $976,560 worth of contracts with the Defense Department in the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30, 2016.

Although super PACs like Priorities USA can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, companies with federal government contracts can’t make political contributions.

“Based on our internal accounting, the contract appeared to be completed as the project was over four years ago,” the company said in a statement. “We notified the Committee regarding the ambiguity and the funds were immediately returned.”

A spokesman for the company said they would not be providing any additional comments at this time.

But the complaint says the company’s contributions violated the ban on federal contractors making political contributions. It also says Priorities “may have” violated a ban on soliciting such funds but that the pro-Clinton group at least violated its duty to refund the money within 30 days of discovering it.

Priorities USA Action had a duty at the time it accepted two illegal contributions from Suffolk Construction Company in 2015 to determine if it could accept these contributions and the Super PAC apparently failed to perform that duty,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer.

“The FEC needs to investigate this and also needs to investigate whether the Super PAC solicited these government contractor contributions in violation of the law,” Mr. Wertheimer said. “The fact that Priorities USA is now returning the contributions, after questions about them had been raised in published reports does not cure any violations that occurred.”

The Center for Public Integrity first reported in April that the federal government had awarded Suffolk Construction $168.8 million worth of government contracts since fiscal year 2008.

A spokesman for Priorities USA Action did not offer a comment Wednesday on the FEC complaint.

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