Republicans are working on multiple fronts to stop President Barack Obama from making companies bidding on federal contracts disclose their donations to third-party political groups.
The chairmen of the House Oversight Committee and the Small Business Committee have introduced legislation that would ban the federal government from collecting or using information about the political expenditures of federal contractors, allowing them to keep their political donations to third party groups secret. Yesterday, the House passed an amendment to the 2012 defense bill which would prevent federal agencies from collecting such data.
Introduced by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Tom Cole (R-OK) in response to a leaked draft of an executive order the Obama administration was considering which would have mandated federal contractors disclose their donations to third-party groups, the legislation is titled the “Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of 2011.”
A companion bill is being introduced in the Senate by Susan Collins (R-ME), Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rob Portman (R-OH).
Center for Competitive Politics President Sean Parnell called Cole’s amendment to the defense bill a “strong rebuke to the executive branch’s effort to bring politics into the federal contracting process and enable the creation of a Nixon-style Enemies List.”
Issa said the legislation “preempts an executive order designed to silence and intimidate job creators and Americans who are passionate enough to a support cause.”
“Businesses should not have to determine and report to the government on whether certain employees contributed to organizations that support or oppose positions on issues including gay marriage and abortion,” Issa said. “Imagine your employer asking for such information - it would happen for some if the current draft executive order is put in place.”
Good government groups are slamming the GOP’s opposition to a measure they say would increase transparency.
“Precisely when disclosure is most important — at the time in which the Supreme Court has unleashed a flood of unlimited corporate money into our elections — we no longer have a meaningful disclosure law in place,” Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen said in a statement. “Corporate money is flowing into our elections at record levels, but very little about the sources of this money is being disclosed to the public.”
Here’s a rundown of what’s in the bill, per a joint press release:
• Prohibit a federal agency from collecting the political information of contractors and their employees as part of any type of request for proposal in anticipation of any type of contract;
• Prohibit the agency from using political information received from any source as a factor in the source selection decision process for new contracts, or in making decisions related to modifications or extensions of existing contracts; and
• Prohibit databases designed to be used by contracting officers to determine the responsibility of bidders from including political information (except for information on contractors’ violations already permitted by law).
The full bill is here.