The District of Columbia’s pay-to-play law will go into effect on November 9, 2022. The law was originally scheduled to take effect on November 4, 2020, but was postponed because of a lack of funding.
The law prohibits businesses seeking or holding contracts with the District government valued at $250,000 or more, and the business’s senior officers (e.g., president, executive director, chief executive officer, chief operating officer, or chief financial officer), from contributing to “covered officials.” Who is a covered official depends on who oversees the contract in question. For example, if a contractor is seeking or holding a contract overseen by a District agency that reports to the mayor, the prohibited recipients would be:
- The mayor
- Candidates for mayor
- Political committees affiliated with the mayor and candidates
- Constituent services fund of the mayor
Similar restrictions apply to contracts overseen by the Council and the attorney general.
The restricted period for giving contributions depends on the type of contract, but generally begins on the date of the solicitation and continues through the end of negotiations (if unsuccessful) or up to one year after the termination of a contract (if successful).
Violations may result in contract termination or disqualification from seeking future contracts (including extensions of existing contracts) for four years.
The pay-to-play law will not apply to contracts sought, entered into, or executed before November 9, 2022. As a result, any contracts currently held do not trigger contribution restrictions, and any contributions made prior to seeking, entering into, or executing a contract beginning on November 9 do not bar the business from receiving contracts. Thus, the law will not apply to contributions made in the runup to the November 2022 elections in DC.
The Office of Contracting and Procurement is responsible for issuing rules to implement the law within 180 days after its effective date. We will monitor any proposed rules and regulations for the pay-to-play law.
Please contact us if you have questions about establishing a pay-to-play compliance program. Venable’s Political Law Group has helped numerous clients assess their risks in this area and develop a tailored compliance plan. For more information on developments in federal and state campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws, please visit Venable’s political law blog at www.PoliticalLawBriefing.com.