It Was An Accounting Error: Pro-Clinton Super PAC Accepted Illegal Donations

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Nov 05, 2016 6:00 PM
It Was An Accounting Error: Pro-Clinton Super PAC Accepted Illegal Donations

But they returned the money.

Still, it doesn’t negate the fact that a pro-Clinton super PAC accepted illegal campaign contributions from a charity connected to a Massachusetts’s-based construction firm with federal contracts. The amount of the donations totaled $250,000. Correct The Record, the super PAC in question, says it has returned the money. The construction firm who gave the illegal donation is called Suffolk Construction Company Inc., which is the largest private construction company in the country, according to The Center for Public Integrity (CPI). A spokesperson for the company told CPI that the donations were an “accounting error.”

Suffolk Cares Inc., a nonprofit charity registered under section 501(c)(3) of federal tax code, gave Correct the Record $100,000 on Sept. 8 and another $150,000 on Oct. 12, according to federal campaign finance documents. Charities of this kind are explicitly prohibited from making political contributions under federal law.

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Suffolk Cares Inc. is funded by Suffolk Construction Company Inc. and company chairman and CEO John Fish, according to the charity’s tax return for fiscal year 2015, its most recent. Fish is a major political donor who’s personally spread hundreds of thousands of dollars among various political candidates and groups, mostly Democratic.

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The IRS states that "501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office."

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The $250,000 Correct the Record is giving back to Suffolk Cares Inc. represents more than 8 percent of the super PAC’s income since July 1, federal campaign finance records indicate.

Launched as a stand-alone group in 2015 and based in Washington, D.C., Correct the Record is part of collection of political committees and nonprofits connected to David Brock, a one-time Clinton foe who in recent years has become one of her most loyal advocates.

[…]

“We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our election, corrupting our political process, drowning out the voices and votes of people,” Clinton said in a speech last year.

CPI also noted that this isn’t the first time Suffolk landed in trouble for their donations, pointing to another $200,000 check they gave to another pro-Clinton PAC Priorities USA. This time it came from the company proper back in July (via The Hill):

A super-PAC supporting Hillary Clinton has refunded $200,000 in contributions from a company that had contracts with the federal government.

Priorities USA returned the donation after a story appeared in The Hill highlighting how the ban on political contributions from business groups holding federal contracts is frequently skirted.

In a statement, Suffolk Construction said Priorities USA had returned the donation.

“Based on our internal accounting, the contract appeared to be completed as the project was over four years ago," Dan Antonellis of the Boston-based company said in a statement to The Hill.

"We notified the Committee of this ambiguity and they decided to return their contribution.”

A spokesman for the super-PAC, Priorities USA, confirmed that it had given back the funds.

Companies that hold contracts with the federal government are banned from making political contributions.

For the Correct The Record incident, Suffolk Cares delivered a check of $100,000 on September 8 and another $150,000 donation on October 12. That’s a pretty steep accounting error. Also, Clinton's remarks in conjunction with this is...I mean, you just can't make this up.