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Ethics For Constructors: Could PAC Contributions Conflict With Ethics?

There are many political action committees (PACs) across the country that support the construction industry. The typical PAC advocates for political candidates that have a clear interest in supporting the industry, contractors, construction companies, and/or construction workers at the state and local levels.

From a financial perspective, PACs rely on donations for funding so that they can host events, promote rallies, launch campaigns, and act in other ways to support construction-friendly candidates. When money is involved, it can be challenging for contractors and individual members of the construction industry to avoid conflicts of interest.

Navigating issues related to PAC contributions is one of the most difficult construction ethical dilemma examples to sort through. Let’s take a look at a common example to help you make the right decision when faced with this ethical situation in the construction industry.

PACs: Navigating This Construction Ethical Dilemma Example

Ethics in Construction Situation: Let’s say that you work for a company that regularly gives to a political action committee run by a construction association. The purpose of the PAC is to promote construction issues to your state legislature and governor. Your company always gives in accord with the laws governing political contributions.

However, the PAC association recently asked your company to host a political roundtable at your facility. At this event, representatives from the construction industry and government elected officials will discuss construction issues in your state. The PAC would be listed as the event host, and your company would only be responsible for supplying the location, food, and drinks.

You believe this is a good opportunity for your company and the industry. But, you haven’t said yes to the request because you have a feeling that this is not 100 percent the right thing to do. What direction should you take with this opportunity?

Ethics in Construction Answer: Donating to candidates and PACs is ethical and legal, as long as you and/or your company abide by the fundraising rules. You don’t want to cross the line, though, such as encouraging employees to contribute to certain candidates. This practice is neither ethical nor legal.

Additionally, you don’t want to have a conflict of interest – perceived or actual – when pursuing opportunities to bid on public works projects. If your company is engaged in public works, then hosting a PAC event could be perceived as a violation of public bidding and contract award codes. An argument could be made against the company that you sought to deliberately influence public officials in order to get contracts.

Use your best judgment in this situation. And, if you do not feel 100 percent comfortable about hosting a PAC event, then consider declining the offer to host the event because of your concerns about ethical and possible legal reasons.

If you feel pressured by your company to accept the offer, gather as much information as possible about why you believe there is a potential conflict of interest. Present this information to executives and decision-makers in the company to back your conclusion. This way, you can take the appropriate steps to protect your company and yourself.

Find Support Navigating Ethical Situations in Construction

As always, it’s important to err on the side of caution when contemplating whether to make financial contributions to PACs or provide public support to political candidates. Often, it’s not worth the risk of making a mistake that could lead to ethical or legal problems.

To learn more about ethical issues that you may encounter in the construction industry, we invite you to become an AIC member. You will gain valuable knowledge from other construction professionals who have been in your same position working through some of the most common construction ethical dilemmas.

– We also encourage you to subscribe to the AIC email newsletter. Simply drop your name and email address in the sign-up box at the bottom of this page so that you can receive helpful information about construction ethics.

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