President Obama May Require Federal Contractors to List Campaign Gifts

Kathleen Lantto |

From The New York Times:

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis

President Obama is seriously considering an executive order that would require companies doing business with the federal government to disclose their political contributions, White House officials said on Tuesday, a step long awaited by activists to reduce the influence of secretive corporate donations in elections.

The directive, known as the “dark money” executive order, would mandate that government contractors publicly report their contributions to groups that spend money to influence campaigns. Advocates inside and outside the White House believe the executive order would prompt some companies to spend less, by exposing their donations to public scrutiny.

Mr. Obama has been considering the action for more than a year, but discussions have intensified in recent weeks, according to activists and administration officials, as the president moves to deliver on unfulfilled promises in his final year in office.

Brandi Hoffine, a White House spokeswoman, declined to comment on internal deliberations, and officials said no final decisions had been made.

“While we will continue to examine additional steps we can take to reduce the corrosive influence of money in politics, only Congress can put an end to it,” Ms. Hoffine said. She noted that legislation to require companies to reveal their campaign giving, known as the Disclose Act, died in 2012 amid Republican opposition.

The idea behind the order is to expose the political activity of many of the country’s largest companies, an attempt to narrow the floodgates of corporate contributions that opened with the Supreme Court’sCitizens United ruling in 2010, which allowed companies and labor unions to give unlimited sums.

In a report last spring, Public Citizen Congress Watch estimated that the proposed directive would apply to 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies, noting that large ones including Exxon Mobil, Apple, General Motors and General Electric had federal contracts worth more than $100,000 over the previous year.

Business groups that have fiercely opposed campaign finance restrictions argue that the executive order would encroach on free speech rights. And some advocates have privately questioned whether the directive would be enforceable.

“The real goal of the disclosure proponents is to harass, intimidate and silence those with whom they disagree,” said Blair Latoff Holmes, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We continue to believe that one’s political activities should play no role in whether or not you get or keep a federal contract, and we encourage the administration to leave this bad idea right where it is.”

But outside groups that have long pressed for Mr. Obama to act on his own believe the moment is close at hand. In his State of the Union address last week, the president made a lengthy plea to “fix our politics,” specifically calling for reducing the role of money in campaigns and denying “hidden interests” the ability to bankroll elections.

Read the full article from The New York Times.