Rhode Island — currently a “disclosure only” pay-to-play state — is considering adding a political contributions ban to its pay-to-play repertoire. In February, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin proposed legislation to prohibit state vendors, their ten-percent owners, their executive officers, and the spouses and minor children of those officers and owners from making political contributions to state “officeholder[s] responsible for awarding” contracts and to declared candidates for those offices. If the state contract is over $5,000, the ban applies. A similar restriction applies to the executives and family members of companies with pending bids.
Importantly, by using the phrase “officeholder responsible for awarding the contract,” the legislature is not simply prohibiting contributions to the bureaucrat in the purchasing division of the contracting agency. By statute, the Governor, for example, is considered the “officeholder responsible for awarding” the vast majority of state contracts, making contributions to him off-limits.
The bill may get broader before it is passed. Last week, it was reported that it is being held for further study by the Rhode Island House’s Committee on Judiciary to look at whether it should also include a ban on contributions to state parties and leadership PACs. We will continue to monitor this legislation as it develops.