Business groups to Obama: Drop order on contractor disclosure

A coalition of more than 80 business groups told President Obama to "abandon" a draft executive order that would have government contractors disclose their political contributions.

In a letter sent Monday to Obama, groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Retail Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers said that they oppose the draft order since it would inject politics into the federal contracting process. In addition, they said the draft order would chill their free-speech rights.

"The Executive has a statutory obligation to procure goods and services based on the best value for the American taxpayer. It also has constitutional obligations to respect the legislative domain of Congress, to refrain from chilling protected political speech, and to avoid subjecting citizens to arbitrary laws," the letter says. "The draft executive order violates each of these duties and potentially turns the procurement process into a tool with which to reward political allies and punish political opponents. Accordingly, we urge you to abandon this dangerous and ill-advised proposal. American businesspeople should not be forced to limit the exercise of their constitutional rights under a new and oppressive regulatory scheme."

The letter comes as the draft order has fallen under heavy criticism from several Republicans, as well as a few Democrats.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Small Business Committee, held a joint hearing last week that blasted the administration on the draft order. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also told reporters he opposed the draft order, while Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) signed on to a letter with senators expressing concerns about it.

More than 30 public-interest groups have signed their own letter supporting the draft order. They argue it would help bring transparency and accountability to the federal contracting process.

The draft order comes after the White House and Democrats failed last Congress to pass the Disclose Act that would have had outside groups disclose their donors, which stalled in the Senate. That was in response to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in January 2010 that allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds on political activities, leading to a flood of advertising in the last campaign season.