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Venable partner Ron Jacobs was quoted in a March 29, 2013 Law360 article on the recent indictment of a New Jersey engineering firm and several of its top executives in an alleged pay-to-play plot masking illegal corporate campaign contributions as personal employee donations. The indictment also alleges firm personnel failed to disclose the contributions on forms filed with the state’s campaign finance regulator and submitted false certificates saying the company was in compliance with pay-to-play rules when vying for public contracts.

According to Jacobs, the concerted effort to circumvent pay-to-play restrictions distinguishes the case from more technical, civil violations. “New Jersey probably has the most complicated pay-to-play rule in the country, and the only way it works is if you comply, and compliance is normally a civil function,” Jacobs said. “Here, you had a company that, according to the attorney general, wanted to get around it. I think you have to go after a company like that.” To avoid similar problems in the future, Jacobs advised companies to create a culture of compliance, saying, “You can't mess around with this stuff, and I think [the case] is a useful reminder that you not only have to worry about screening contributions, but you also have to make sure the company has procedures and policies to prevent executives from trying to get around the law.”