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August 02, 1998 Pay to Play

Campaign Contributions in Exchange for Legal Engagements


Adopted by the House of Delegates

August 3-4, 1998

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges the following actions be taken to address any conduct by lawyers making or soliciting campaign contributions to public officials for the purpose of being considered or retained for government legal engagements:

1) All state, territorial and local bar associations should unequivocally condemn any arrangement under which the selection or consideration of lawyers to be retained for government legal engagements depends, in whole or in part, on whether the lawyer has made or solicited campaign contributions.

2) State, territories and local government entities should create, establish and maintain full and effective systems for the reporting and disclosure of campaign contributions to candidates for elective public office so that the public may have reasonable notice of contributions made by lawyers or law firms, and where they have not, bar and disciplinary authorities should adopt rules that require disclosure of campaign contributions by lawyers and law firms to government officials in a position to influence the award of legal engagements to the contributor.

3) Merit procurement processes should be adopted for the selection of lawyers performing legal services for government agencies as a means of ensuring that no political contribution or solicitation has influenced the selection.

4) The Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility is directed to report to the House of Delegates by its 1999 Annual Meeting a proposed Model Rule that declares that a lawyer or law firm shall not make a political contribution or solicitation for the purpose of obtaining or being considered for a legal engagement.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That, where local circumstances warrant, the American Bar Association urges that a rule be considered for adoption that would limit or prevent a lawyer from accepting a legal engagement to perform professional services after making or soliciting a political contribution to a public official for the purpose of being retained, or being considered eligible for retention, by public agencies if the official is involved in selecting the lawyer to be retained.