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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 McCaskillMcCaskill: 'Hypocrisy' for GOP to target Biden nominee's tweets after Trump Democrats must turn around Utah police arrest man driving 130 mph claiming he was going to kill former Missouri senator 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 CollinsBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks MORE (Maine), ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWaPo reporter says GOP has less incentive to go big on COVID-19 relief Republican frustration builds over Cabinet picks Senators call for passage of bill to cement alcohol excise tax relief 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 McConnellBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser 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.