In the midst of the busy holiday season, our readership may have missed the latest on the pay to play regulatory front in the Keystone State – a shiny new campaign finance disclosure obligation gifted to municipal contractors by the Delaware County Council. Moving forward in the new year, instead of simply wrapping up their political contributions and sticking them in the stockings of their favorite local officials, certain county contractors will now have an affirmative obligation to disclose campaign contributions made to specific state and local candidates, political parties and political committees.
Under the new ordinance scheduled to go into effect in April of this year, contractors (including officers, directors, shareholders, partners with at least 5 percent ownership interests, and the spouses of such persons) wanting to conduct business with the Delaware County government must disclose, at least eight days before their contract is considered by the County Council, certain covered contributions made during the 24 months prior to contract pursuit. Failure to do so could result in termination of the contract and a three-year ban of doing business with the county. The ordinance applies to all contractors expecting to receive at least $50,000 from a county contract for goods, supplies, materials, equipment, consulting, professional or other services or for property that is provided or leased to the county. Starting in 2023, annual disclosure updates will be required from contractors executing contracts greater than a year.
The required disclosures under the new ordinance will require reportable contributions made within the 24 months prior to contract pursuit to candidates for County Council, District Attorney, Sheriff, Controller, Register of Wills in Delaware County, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas or Magisterial District Courts in Delaware County, any seat in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that represents residents of Delaware County, or for any statewide office in Pennsylvania. The disclosures must also include all contributions made by contractors to Pennsylvania state, county or municipal political party committees and political action committees when the relevant donation is intended be directed to or for the benefit of a covered political candidate or official.
While Delaware County officials hope the implementation of their new pay to play ordinance will increase confidence in the municipal contracting process, it is yet to be seen how burdensome the obligation will be for prospective and existing contractors and how much more transparency will be gained under the new disclosure framework. Those seeking to do business outside Philadelphia in 2022 and beyond, however, should be mindful of the new rules and we here at the Pay-to-Play Law Blog will certainly be keeping tabs on their impact. After all, a new year is certain to bring plenty of new local pay to play updates in jurisdictions across the country.