Friday, May 13, 2011

Political Contribution Disclosure Draft Executive Order

Back on April 24th, we reported on a draft Executive Order (EO) that, if enacted, would require that all entities submitting offers for federal contracts to disclose political contributions and expenditures that they and certain individuals within the organization have made within two years prior to the submission of their offer. Since that draft EO came to light, the blogosphere has been overflowing with both criticism and support, more of the former and less of the latter.
Yesterday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the proposed EO as part of its “…responsibility to safeguard the federal contracting and procurement processes from the exploitation and the undue influence of partisan political concerns.” The title given to this hearing was “Politicizing Procurement: Would President Obama’s Proposal Curb Free Speech and Hurt Small Business?” You can get a good idea of what the Committee thinks about the proposal from just the title. According to the Committee,

There is now bipartisan alarm on Capitol Hill that the proposed Executive Order runs afoul of the government's responsibility to keep federal procurement and contracting fair and unbiased. Indeed, Congress must protect U.S. taxpayers from the kinds of corrupt spoils system that could develop if federal contract awards were seemingly tied to partisan political affiliations.
The acquisition and procurement laws are specifically designed to ensure impartiality in the selection of contractors. Competing offers are judged on the merits of their proposals and in the best interests of U.S. taxpayers. If the President's proposed Executive Order is authorized, political donation information would be readily available to political appointees who are immediately involved in the contracting process. That risk is unacceptable.
The Committee heard from seven witnesses, one from the Executive Department (OMB) and six representing private industry. The OMB representative said that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on a proposed order so he spent his time talking about all the things that the administration is doing to improve the procurement process and make it more transparent. Five of the six industry/academia witnesses (PSC, NDIA, AIA, etc) were decidedly and emphatically against the proposal. One called it an “ill-advised power grab”. The sixth one, representing the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, was for the proposal except she wanted the reporting threshold raised to a level that would not impact small businesses.

There are many others who have weighed in on the issue. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has come out strongly against the proposal while POGO (Project on Government Oversight) is strongly for it. Both have good arguments to support their position. There will be, no doubt, much more to come on this subject. If you wish to read the prepared testimonies of the witnesses, gohere.

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