Common Cause joins push for disclosure of political spending by contractors

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  • Dale Eisman

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Before the 2012 elections are overrun by corporate and other special interest money, President Obama should stand up for the public interest by forcing federal contractors to disclose their campaign spending, Common Cause said today.

“Congress has failed to pass even modest legislation that would forbid the kind of anonymous political spending we saw in the 2010 midterm elections,” said Bob Edgar, president of the non-partisan government watchdog group. “If we can’t compel disclosure by all special interest donors, the President should at least force companies that do business with the government – and thus with the taxpayers – to be transparent in their political giving.”

Edgar joined representatives of 35 progressive organizations at a press conference today to urge the President to issue an executive order requiring disclosure of political spending by government contractors. In a letter to Obama, the group noted that support for disclosure extends to the Supreme Court, which last year removed legal barriers to corporate and union political spending. The court’s controversial Citizens United decision asserted that disclosure requirements enable voters to make informed decisions at the polls and “do not prevent anyone from speaking.”

Officials of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby, have warned that the President will face retaliatory action by corporate givers if he issues the disclosure order. The Chamber poured almost $33 million into Congressional campaigns during 2010, exploiting legal loopholes that allowed it to keep the donors secret.

Edgar urged Obama not to be swayed by such bullying.

“We know that the public would embrace this order,” he said. A citizens’ petition in support of disclosure, circulated online by Common Cause on Tuesday afternoon, attracted nearly 12,000 signatures within a few hours.

Scores of responsible business leaders also favor disclosure of corporate political spending, the Chamber notwithstanding. A letter to Obama sent Wednesday by more than three dozen business executives, argued that secret political spending is “bad for business and bad for our country.”

The executives wrote that they’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.”

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