Following House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) announcement of his opposition to a proposed executive order from the White House to force government contractors to disclose their personal political donations, more Democrats in Congress are declaring their opposition today.
Politico reports, “Two key members of the Senate Democratic Caucus are criticizing President Barack Obama’s draft executive order calling on government contractors to disclose their political contributions. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, are joining Republicans who say that the order could inject politics into contracting decisions.”
In the letter, announced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, Lieberman and McCaskill write, “[W]e are concerned that requiring businesses to disclose their political activity when making an offer risks injecting politics into the contracting process. Federal contracting law already precludes the consideration of political activity in evaluating contract offers. . . . The requirement that businesses disclose political expenditures as part of the offer process creates the appearance that this type of information could become a factor in the award of federal contracts.” The letter was also signed by Sen. Portman and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
In addition, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told The Washington Post’s 2chambers blog (despite noting he opposes the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision), “I am concerned that, surely unintentionally, the administration’s desire to get at transparency and accountability may also look like it’s having – or will have – a chilling effect on the ability of people freely to participate in the political process and donate as they see fit.”
In an excellent editorial today, the Washington Examiner lays out why this proposed executive order should attract so much bipartisan opposition. “Awarding government contracts on bidder merits rather than as a reward for partisan political activity should not be controversial. . . . This proposed order is anything but benign. Not only does it require disclosure of individual contributions to partisan candidates, it also covers donations to any organization that might use the funds for ‘independent expenditures or electioneering communications,’ otherwise known as political speech protected by the First Amendment. So all firms hoping to do business with the federal government would have to investigate the personal political activities of their principals and report them to federal bureaucrats and their politically appointed overseers . . . .
“Liberal groups claim that these disclosure requirements are only meant to increase transparency, not chill political speech,” the Examiner writes. “But if that were true, consider this: In 2010, Obama’s liberal allies, including unions, spent $95 million on independent expenditures like those funded by corporations. But unions that sign collective bargaining contracts with the federal government are exempt from the Obama order’s ‘disclosure’ requirements. Clearly, the chill would only be felt among Obama opponents.”
As Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday, “The issuing of contracts by the federal government should be based on the contractor’s merits, bids, and capabilities. Under no condition should political contributions play a role in the decision. However, the White House’s draft Executive Order makes it crystal clear that if you want to do business with the government you can’t contribute to Republicans. As Senator Collins recently pointed out, this Executive Order would basically repeal the Hatch Act and inject politics back into the procurement process. This is simply unacceptable. . . . The White House still has an opportunity to not go forward with this and you can rest assure we will be watching very closely. Because the proposed effort would represent an outrageous and anti-democratic abuse of executive branch authority.”
Senate News Briefing 5.12.11