Common Cause, Allies Urge Obama to Order Federal Contractors to Disclose Political Spending

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  • Dale Eisman

Citing the development of “a Wild West campaign spending world,” Common Cause and more than 50 other organizations joined today in calling on President Obama to issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending.

In a letter to the President, the groups said a strong disclosure requirement “is imperative” and would be an effective weapon against corruption in government contracting.

“President Obama said in his State of the Union that a better politics means spending ‘less time drowning in dark money … that pull[s] us into the gutter,’” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport. “The President has an opportunity to shine a light on the millions of secret dollars influencing our elections and require government contractors to disclose their political spending.

“Issuing this executive order is squarely within his authority as chief executive. The public interest demands we curb the culture of pay-to-play that infects Washington – but first we have to know who is beholden to whom. That’s why it’s important that the President use his authority to help build a ‘better politics’ and sign this executive order,” Rapoport added.

State and federal laws generally bar action to reward or penalize government contractors based on their political expenditures. But the groups argued that repeated scandals have reinforced the public’s sense that companies and executives get special treatment in return for their political spending.

The groups said Obama should order that federal contractors disclose any political expenditures from their corporate treasuries as well as contributions by senior managers and affiliated political action committees after contracts have been awarded. The order also should require federal contractors to affirmatively certify that they are in compliance with the federal ban on direct or indirect political contributions, they asserted. 

More than a dozen states have imposed similar campaign finance disclosure requirements on government contractors.

The groups’ plea to Obama comes five years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations, unions and associations have a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums to influence elections. The decision has triggered an explosion of new campaign spending, with much of the money provided by anonymous donors operating through tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations.

Read the letter and see the complete list of signers.