Money-in-politics reformers are seizing on reports that President Obama is weighing the possibility of issuing an executive order to force companies doing business with the federal government to reveal their political spending.
If Obama issues this order, as The New York Times suggests is likely, it would be a rare offering from a president who came to office promising major changes to campaign finance law but who has disappointed activists who say he has done nothing to stem the flow of special-interest money into elections.
While the most significant actions to curb the influence of money require either Supreme Court action or congressional legislation — and Obama faces a Republican Party opposed to either — an executive order on disclosure is a unilateral move that reformers have been urging for years.
"This action is long overdue and eagerly awaited," said Lisa Gilbert, director of Congress Watch for the transparency organization Public Citizen. "One million citizens have called for this executive action, looking for the White House to lead on this issue."
In his recent State of the Union address, Obama gave hope to these long-frustrated reformers when he declared, "I believe we have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections. And if our existing approach to campaign finance reform can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution."
Obama still has time to create that "legacy on money in politics, and we hope to see it very soon," Gilbert said.
An executive order requiring current government contractors to disclose their political spending would affect about 70 percent of top companies. According to Public Citizen's analysis, 70 of the Fortune 100 companies hold federal contracts totaling at least $100,000. They include Exxon Mobil, General Motors, Bank of America, Google and Verizon.
"President Obama can begin turning his powerful words ... into action," said Adam SmithAdam SmithDems release parallel Benghazi report ahead of GOP How 'Brexit' would inflame populism abroad — and here in the US Dems push for allowing base closures MORE, spokesman for campaign finance reform group Every Voice.
"The American people deserve to know the ways in which those who seek contracts with the government are trying to influence the political process."