INFLUENCING LOCAL GOVERNMENT My friend runs a small Atlanta chemical company that produces alum.

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INFLUENCING LOCAL GOVERNMENT

My friend runs a small Atlanta chemical company that produces alum. Alum is used for many purposes, including water purification, and the company had a contract with Fulton County for this use for many years. In all the years they had this contract, they received it through open bidding. This was the case every renewal year until this year, when they were again the low bidder. A larger company based in the North with a division in Georgia was awarded the contract, even though its bid was about 3 percent higher. This would have been acceptable if there had been a quality or delivery problem in the past, but this had never been the case. My friend met with a former county commissioner to seek advice about, and reasons for, this situation. The commissioner believed that there was an underthe- table agreement and advised my friend to sue the county and its purchasing manager. The problem is that the contract is relatively small and the lawsuit would almost certainly cost more than the contract.

1. Is filing a lawsuit the best way for this chemical company to influence the county commission? What options does the company have?

2. Do companies now have to lobby local or other governments to get business? Do they need to make PAC contributions? Bribes or kickbacks?

3. What action should this small chemical company take?

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