Rumor has it federal contractors may soon be required to disclose political contributions. In an end run around the failed DISCLOSE Act, the Obama administration may be getting ready to use the power of the executive branch to enact campaign finance reform.
A draft of a proposed executive order spells out the new cost of doing business with the government. Certain contributions would be prohibited during negotiations and during the life of the contract. The order further stipulates federal contractors disclose certain political contributions and expenditures made up to two years before submitting an offer.
Contributions of more than $5,000 a year would be subject to the new regulation. Bidding companies, their employees, officers, affiliates and subsidiaries would be required to report all contributions and expenditures publicly, including those made to third-party players involved in elections.
The memo touts the proposal as a step towards more government transparency. However, while the White House has not yet commented on the memo’s validity, the battle lines are already being drawn.
Earlier in the day, OMB Watch, a government-transparency watchdog group, offered cautious praise for the draft’s provisions. “[T]he fact of the matter is that disclosure of political contributions, no matter who they come from, is good for democracy,” the group’s founder Gary Bass posted on OMBWatch.com. “The public needs to know who is giving how much to which candidates, and no person or corporation should be allowed to hide behind a shroud of secrecy and prevent the people from seeing who is trying to influence government and policymaking through political contributions.”
But the Professional Services Council, a trade association representing scores of government contractors, sees things a little differently. Far from pulling the lid back on political influence-peddling, the proposal would unnecessarily inject the contract-awarding process with politics, the group said.
“The draft order says it is necessary to ensure that politics are not allowed to impair the integrity of the procurement process,” said PSC President and CEO Stan Soloway. “But by force-feeding irrelevant information to government-contracting officers, who would otherwise never consider such factors in a source selection, the rule would actually do precisely what it is intended to stop — inject politics into the source selection process.”
And while OMB Watch said the proposal would be the first step in “allowing the sun to shine in,” the PSC’s Soloway said the proposal ” should never see the light of day.”
Jack Moore contributed to this report.