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Stimulus Funds Vulnerable to Pay-to-Play Contracting

Stimulus Funds Vulnerable to Pay-to-Play Contracting

Ingrid Drake | Project on Government Oversight

September 25, 2009

How to Connect the Dots Between Campaign Contributions and Stimulus Contracts

Even when states and localities can’t enforce their pay-to-play laws, it is possible to connect the dots between campaign money and stimulus-funded contracts. Some states have tools that make it easier to connect the dots. For instance, Illinois has Open Book, a database that allows the public to search state contracts and campaign contributions. The database does not identify contracts as ARRA-funded, so this oversight tool must be used in conjunction with the state’s Department of Transportation website, which clearly identifies stimulus contracts. In other states, it’s also possible to identify pay-to-play contracting, although only by comparing up to three different databases and websites: one for campaign contributions; one for state contracts; and the state Recovery website for a list of ARRA contracts. In New York City, the public can keep track by identifying the contractor from NYC Stimulus Tracker, plugging them into the Doing Business Search, and then referencing the Searchable Campaign Finance Database.

In other states, however, it may be close to impossible to compare this data at all. Good Jobs First found that only 10 states provide contractor names on their ARRA website, and POGO has discovered that only 11 states clearly identify ARRA contracts on their state procurement websites. (Those interested in searching campaign contributions by state, including industry and donor name, have a resource in the National Institute on Money in State Politics.)

The Federal Gov Can Remove Some Obstacles, and Learn from the States

If the above obstacles are removed, many states and local governments have practices that may serve as model legislation for other states — and even the federal government — such as the Open Book in Illinois and well-crafted pay-to-play laws.

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