By SCOTT AMEY
President Obama's contractor political spending Executive Order (EO) isn't out yet, but that's not preventing Congress from heading it off at the pass. The House approved the National Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 1540), which includes a provision (Section 847) which would prohibit the federal government from requiring a contractor to disclose political spending on federal elections and prevent much-needed transparency and accountability of possible pay-to-play antics. POGO has supported the intent of the EO and urged the Senate to reject a provision that would not require contractors to disclosure secret contributions that can have a dramatic impact on campaigns and elections.
Unfortunately, the Senate is also considering an amendment, offered by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rob Portman (R-OH), that would preclude the White House from forcing the Pentagon to require contractors to disclose their political spending activities.
The draft EO that is circulating is far from perfect, and hasn't received much congressional support. The process for unrolling it has understandably drawn the ire of Congress, including its premature release, the decision to not talk about it, or answer questions regarding its connection to federal contract bids, but these Hill efforts go too far and should be rejected. Congress’s concerns about the language in the draft EO shouldn’t allow them to lose sight of the many reasons to support the intent of the EO. But it looks like the Hill—with the notable exception of Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD)—is leaning toward preventing the public from knowing about the actual power contractors wield through political spending that impacts elections as well as government missions and programs.
Scott Amey is POGO's General Counsel.