President Should Require Federal Contractors to Disclose Political Spending

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  • Dale Eisman

President Obama’s reported plan to compel disclosure of political spending by federal contractors is the most encouraging news in months for the health of our elections, Common Cause said Wednesday.

“The President should quickly issue an executive order requiring those doing business with the government to disclose their spending on elections,” said Bob Edgar, president of the non-profit government watchdog group. “Voters are entitled to this information as they make decisions about who should represent them in Washington.”

Edgar noted that clear majorities in the House and Senate voted repeatedly last year for an even broader disclosure requirement than Obama is contemplating. Obstructionists were able to defeat the DISCLOSE Act, which covered all corporate campaign spending – not just that by government contractors — by using the Senate’s filibuster rule to block a final vote.

“The absurdity of the arguments against disclosure, advanced by the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, among others, is breathtaking,” Edgar said. “They suggest that companies will refuse to speak, and thus be stifled, rather than see their political activity become public.

“This amounts to an admission that some corporations lack the simple decency to stand up for their beliefs. It’s instructive to note that millions of citizens, who put out political yard signs and slap campaign stickers on the family car, have no such qualms about their political activity.

“The fact is that disclosure adds to speech, providing context in the form of information about the speakers,” Edgar added. “The Chamber’s argument is nothing more than an attempt to hide behind the First Amendment while it and its friends secretly invest millions of dollars in our political system.”

Common Cause also urged Obama to provide a strong set of nominees to fill five current or upcoming vacancies on the six-member Federal Election Commission.

“The FEC has authority to write disclosure requirements that would reach beyond federal contractors. The President should challenge it to do so,” Edgar said. “And if some senators want to filibuster his nominees, let them explain why they want the voters – their bosses – kept in the dark about who is paying for our elections.”

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