House Dems: Want a Gov't Contract? Reveal Your Political Donations

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 12:55 PM EDT

A bloc of more than 60 House Democrats wants President Obama sign an executive order forcing contractors to disclose their political contributions when applying for government contracts.. Their plea, outlined in a letter sent to the White House on Thursday, concerns a draft executive order leaked earlier this spring. The order is one course of action mulled by the Obama administration to minimize the impact of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. It's also a response to the failure of the DISCLOSE Act, a Democratic-backed bill that would've required similar disclosure by government contractors. That bill failed in the Senate last year.

"Any business that is paid with taxpayer dollars should be required to disclose their political expenditures to the taxpayers," Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a chief supporter of the executive order, said in a statement today. "In the aftermath of the Citizens United decision, it’s even more important today to stand up for transparency and disclosure."

Republicans and big business groups vehemently oppose the draft executive order. On Thursday, the US Chamber of Commerce urged members of Congress to support amendments by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) to a defense appropriations bill that would preclude any donation disclosure requirement by federal agencies. It comes as no surprise that the Chamber, 60 Plus Association (known as the conservative answer to AARP), and conservative political advocacy groups oppose the order; if enacted, it would shed some light on what contractors help fund these groups, information kept confidential right now.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the powerful House oversight committee, also opposes the executive order, and threatened to use his subpoena power to bring an Obama administration official before Congress to explain the order. It would have been the first time House Republicans subpoenaed a White House official to come before Congress. In the end, the administration defused the showdown by dispatching Daniel Gordon, a federal procurement official who proved a frustrating witness by deflecting some questions and offering narrow, technical answers to others demanding information on the administration's plans.

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