Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) claims a recent draft proposal by President Obama to require federal contractors to disclose donations to third-party political groups is an attempt to politicize the procurement process and one that will intimidate businesses away from federal contracts.
“We’re now talking about Chicago hardball politics that will clearly lead to a chilling effect on contributions by those required to participate,” said Issa at a committee hearing Thursday. “I think it’s very clear, this executive order is outside the procurement process.”
The proposed Executive Order would require government contractors to disclose political contributions in the process of bidding for federal contracts and awards. It would also force disclosure of donations made to corporate and other third-party entities.
The move by the Obama administration is an attempt to restore some of the public reporting requirements that existed before the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling last year dramatically expanded the ability of corporations to engage in partisan political activity.
Republican members on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs, expressed concern that the draft proposal could potentially jeopardize the impartiality of the procurement process and unfairly punish those contractors whose political contributions might be seen in a negative light.
“Any small business brave enough to face the compliance burden of the Executive Order will need to worry that their contributions could be used against them by competitors alleging improper disclosure,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO).
Democrats, on the other hand, questioned how extra transparency could have negative impact on a process that many outside the beltway already view as arcane and subject to political and monetary influence.
“Government contractors already disclose contributions and expenditures by their PACs and those who contribute to them,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). “Contributions by the officers and directors of government contractors are also required to be disclosed. Should we eliminate those provisions too? Of course not.”
Yet while arguing that the draft order would politicize contractors, Republicans were also quick to point out that the order omitted unions that work on federal contracts or receive federal grant money.
“Clearly unions are exempt from this draft order, while corporations are not,” said Issa. “Yet unions are one of the largest political contributors in any American election cycle, and the data reveals that these interest groups overwhelmingly favor Democratic Party candidates.”
Earlier Issa denied a request by the ranking Democratic member Cummings to allow Fred Wertheimer, the head of government watchdog Democracy 21, to testify in support of Obama’s order. In response Cummings submitted Wertheimer’s remarks into the record, but not before protesting once more during the hearing.
Igor Bobic is the assistant editor of Talking Points Memo, helping oversee the site's coverage of politics and policy in Washington. While originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor feels best at home on the beaches of Southern California. He can be reached at email@example.com.