Dem opposition to disclosure plan grows

Democratic opposition is growing to a draft proposal under consideration by President Obama to force prospective government contractors to reveal political contributions.

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (Conn.), an independent who caucuses with Democrats, and Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGiuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri McCaskill shares new July 4 family tradition: Watching Capitol riot video Joe Manchin's secret MORE (D-Mo.) sent a letter Thursday voicing their opposition.
 

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“We are concerned that requiring businesses to disclose their political activity when making an offer risks injecting politics into the contracting process,” the lawmakers wrote. “Federal contracting law already precludes the consideration of political activity in evaluating contract offers.”
 
McCaskill is the chairwoman of Homeland Security’s subcommittee on government contracting.
 
They join House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) who told reporters Tuesday that he opposes the draft order.
 
“I think there are some serious questions as to what implications there are if somehow we consider political contributions in the context of awarding contracts,” Hoyer said.
 
The draft executive order would require companies bidding for federal contracts to disclose contributions made by directors and officers to federal candidates and parties. It would also require the disclosure of corporate donations to third-party advocacy groups that support or oppose federal candidates with campaign ads.
 
Under federal contracting rules, contracts must be awarded based on a consideration of quality, price, technical merit and compliance with solicitation requirements.
 
“The requirement that businesses disclose political expenditures as part of the offer process creates the appearance that this type of information could become a factor in the award of federal contracts,” the senators wrote.
 
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTransit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - Infrastructure vote fails; partisan feud erupts over Jan. 6 panel Senate falling behind on infrastructure MORE (Maine), ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks Senators introduce bipartisan bill to secure critical groups against hackers Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (Ohio), ranking Republican on contracting oversight subcommittee also signed the letter.
 
Some Republican critics have charged President Obama with trying to snoop on the political activities of companies in order to punish those that oppose his administration.
 
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellS.E. Cupp: 'The politicization of science and health safety has inarguably cost lives' Poll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat  Business groups urge lawmakers to stick with bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (Ky.) called the proposal a “blatant attempt to intimidate people” into “not contributing to causes the administration opposes.”
 
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters last month that the president wants to inform taxpayers of contractors who spend money to influence elections. He denied a political motive.

The draft order comes after a flood of campaign advertising in the last election from outside groups, many of which did not have to disclose their donors.

That followed the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January 2010 that allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds on political activities.

To counter that ruling, the White House and Democrats tried to move legislation that would have required outside groups to disclose their donors — called the Disclose Act — but that effort stalled in the Senate.

Like the Disclose Act, business groups and Republicans oppose the draft order. Several public-interest groups that favor stronger campaign finance restrictions support the executive order.

“These disclosure provisions are an appropriate way for the executive branch to help protect the public against pay-to-play efforts by persons seeking to influence executive branch contracting decisions or seeking to obtain earmarks by members of Congress for government contracts,” Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, stated in testimony submitted Thursday to two House panels with oversight over government regulations and small businesses.

Kevin Bogardus contributed to this report.