Administration’s Proposal on Disclosing Contractors’ Political Donations Not a Hit on the Hill

Photo: Jack Moore

Following a House oversight hearing yesterday about a draft executive order requiring government contractors to disclose political contributions, the administration’s proposal is continuing to plummet in popularity — on both sides of the aisle.

A draft of the proposed executive order began circulating a few weeks ago, instantly drawing the ire of industry.

Under the order, certain contributions would be prohibited during negotiations and during the life of the contract. The order also requires federal contractors to disclose certain political contributions of more than $5,000 and expenditures of the two years prior to submitting an offer.

The hearing was fraught with drama, before the witnesses were even called. Initially, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) issued an invitation to White House Budget Director Jack Lew to testify about the order. The White House stonewalled, Issa floated the idea of a subpoena, and, finally, the administration offered to send federal procurement policy administrator Dan Gordon to the Hill.

However, as expected, Gordon declined to answer specific questions about the proposal.

According to a Government Executive report, Gordon said contractors’ political donations would not play a role in the awarding process, but that requiring contractors to disclose would increase “public trust in the federal procurement system,” as Gov Exec described it, which would then help to increase participation and competition.

But that logic did not appear to sway Issa.

“[Information about political contributions] is not necessary for you to do your job, and your office will not look at it,” Issa said. “It’s very clear this executive order is outside the procurement process.”

Increasingly, those concerns are being shared across the aisle.

Sens. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent who caucuses with the Democrats and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) sent a letter to the White House this week with their concern that proposed order risks injecting politics into the contracting process.

Even Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House Democratic whip, aired misgivings about the proposed rule.

“There are some serious questions as to what implications there are if somehow we consider political contributions in the context of awarding contracts,” he said, according to a report in The Hill.

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