Letter to President Obama from business leaders on proposed transparency in government contracting

May 4, 2011

The Honorable Barack Obama

The White House

Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

Businesses interested in long-term profit, like politicians interested in long-term success at the polls, understand that nothing is more important than maintaining our integrity.

That's why we, as business leaders, are writing to support your issuance of an executive order requiring the disclosure of political spending by current and prospective federal contractors.

We are troubled by the way that some of our business colleagues have chosen to exploit recent court rulings expanding the right of companies to participate in politics. Rather than donate openly and deal honestly with shareholders and citizens, these firms funnel their campaign donations through non-profit groups that conceal the true identity of the donors.

We think that's bad for business and bad for our country. We agree with the eight Supreme Court justices who in last year's Citizens United decision took a strong stand in favor of disclosure. The court's majority concluded that disclosure allows shareholders to "determine whether their corporation's political speech advances the corporation's interest in making profits," and allows citizens to "see whether elected officials are 'in the pocket' of so-called moneyed interests."

The court added that "this transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages."

Despite the fact that our laws already prohibit rewarding, or punishing, contractors based on their campaign spending, millions of Americans believe that corporate political spending is directly tied to the awarding of lucrative government contracts. As responsible business leaders, we understand that corruption cases like those involving former Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and William Jefferson, both convicted of bribery in connection with payments they accepted to help companies secure contracts, damage the reputations of everyone doing business with the federal government.

We're convinced that by making corporate political spending more transparent, the proposed executive order would benefit citizens and shareholders, provide an additional safeguard against improper contract awards and reassure the public that the government is doing business based on merit, not money.


Aris Anagnos, President, Real Estate Directions, Inc.

Berkley Bedell, Founder and former Owner, Berkley Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company

Lydia Brazon, Vice President, Real Estate Directions, Inc.

Allan F. Brown, Chairman, Vance Brown, Inc.

Frank A. Butler, President (Retired) Eastman Gelatine Corporation (a Kodak subsidiary)

Ben Carlile, President of Allegiant Partners Incorporated.

John Cawley, President, Pacific Gourmet Inc.

Ben Cohen, Co-Founder, Ben & Jerry's

Michael Connolly, Esq.

Todd Dipaola, President, CheckPoints LLC

John H. Elliott, President, South Carolina Elastic Co.

Antonio Elmaleh, 21Cent Directions, LLC

Jim Epstein, Chairman, Blue Ridge Produce, LLC

Richard Foos, President, Shout! Factory

Danny Goldberg, President, Gold Village Entertainment

Lion Goodman, President, The Goodman Group

Mike Hannigan, President and Co-Founder, Give Something Back

Bart Harvey, (retired) Chair and CEO, Enterprise Community Partners

Alan Hassenfeld, Chairman, Hassenfeld Family Initiatives.

James L. Hecht, Retired, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company

Arnold Hiatt, Former Chief Executive Officer, Stride Rite, Inc.

Leonard Hill, Leonard Hill Films

William N. Hubbard III, President, Center Development Corporation

Frederick S. Hubbell, Chairman (Ret.), Insurance and Asset Management Americas, ING Group

G. David Hurd, Chairman Emeritus, Principal Financial Group

Michael J. Johnston, Executive Vice President (ret.), Capital Group Companies

Harry P. Kamen, Retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, MetLife Inc.

Mike Kappus, President, The Rosebud Agency

Joe Keefe, President & CEO, Pax World Management LLC

Steve Kirsch, CEO, Propel

Norman Kline, CEO, LibraryWorld, Inc.

Jerome Kohlberg, Co-Founder, Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts (retired), Special Limited Partner, Kohlberg and Company

R. Warren Langley President (ret) Pacific Stock and Options Exchange

Mark Lichty, Oak Tree Properties

Arthur D. Lipson, Western Investment LLC

Dennis Mehiel, Chairman, U.S. Corrugated

Arnie Miller, Co-Founder Isaacson Miller

Sylvia Morales, Vice President and Partner, Williams Worldwide Television

Roger A. Mumford, CEO, Forefront Homes

Chang K. Park, Chairman of the Board, Universal Remote Control

Sarah Pillsbury, Producer, Sanford/Pillsbury Productions

Guy T. Saperstein

Timothy Smith, Senior Vice President, Director of ESG Shareowner Engagement, Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust & Investment Management

Nancy Stephens, Executive Producer, Whitewater Films

Philippe Villers, President, GrainPro Inc.

Mal Warwick, Founder & Chairman, Mal Warwick | Donordigital

Judith A Wicks, Founder, White Dog Caf�

Matt Winkler, Ph.D. | CEO & CSO, Asuragen, Inc.

Robert Zevin, Chairman, Zevin Asset Management, LLC

George Zimmer, Founder & CEO, Men's Wearhouse

Corporate affiliation for identification purposes only

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