Senators press for answers on draft political contributions order

Wednesday - 4/27/2011, 11:25am EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

More than a quarter of the Senate wants answers from the White House about a draft Executive Order that would require contractors to disclose campaign contributions before being awarded a federal contract.

Twenty-seven Republican Senators have written a letter to ask President Obama for more information in six specific areas ranging from how the information would be used in making decisions about awarding federal contracts to providing the legal basis the administration is using to determine that two years worth of data about political contributions would not affect First Amendment rights.

"We are concerned that the requirement to provide such information to every contracting agency as a part of every contract proposal could have a chilling effect on their First Amendment rights of individuals to contribute to political causes or candidates of their choice," the letter stated. "In addition to our First Amendment concerns, the fact that the EO would require such information to be submitted directly to contracting agencies creates, at the very least, the appearance that contract award decisions could be predicated on-or influenced by-political contributions or considerations."

The White House made the proposed Executive Order public last week, raising concerns across industry and on Capitol Hill.

Both industry and lawmakers say the administration is trying to get at least parts of the DISCLOSE Act on the books through the regulatory process even if Congress will not approve it. The House passed the bill last session, but it didn't get out of the Senate.

Among the requirements under the DISCLOSE Act would have been the requirement for corporate and special interest groups to disclose money in national political campaigns, including the identity of large donors. It would have barred foreign corporations, government contractors and recipients in the Troubled Asset Relief Program from making political contributions.

"Given the similarities between the draft EO and some provisions in the DISCLOSE Act, which was rejected by the Senate in its current form, we are also concerned that the EO may be an effort to circumvent Congress," the letter stated.

The White House has stated several times this draft EO is about transparency and accountability. An administration official stressed it is just a draft as of now and could change.

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