Contractors required to disclose political contributions: draft order

Obama considers new transparency rules

The Obama administration is determining how to require companies competing for government contracts to list their political contributions when submitting a contract bid, another effort to separate money from its influence, according to a draft executive order.

“To increase transparency and accountability to ensure an efficient and economical procurement process, every contracting department and agency shall require all entities submitting offers for federal contracts to disclose certain political contributions and expenditures that they have made within the two years prior to the submission of their offer,” the order states in its current form. (Read the order.)

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The White House has not released the order, which was obtained by Federal Computer Week. It’s currently going through the standard review and feedback process, an administration official said today.

Although the order would leave many details up to the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council, the administration wants company disclosures to include:

  • All contributions or expenditures to federal candidates, parties or party committees made by the company, its directors, or any affiliates or subsidiaries it controls.
  • Any contributions made to a third party with the intent to use those contributions to make independent expenditures or election advertisements.

Companies would have to disclose the information if the total amount of contributions exceeded $5,000 in a year, according to the draft order. Furthermore, the Obama administration wants the contribution data made public through a searchable online database.

“Taxpayers deserve to feel confident that federal contracting decisions are based on merit alone and are not influenced by political favoritism,” the administration official said.

The regulatory council has until December to adopt the rules.

The order furthers the president’s reforms to government contracting policies, which began with his procurement reform memo in March 2009, soon after his presidential term began.

“The president is committed to bringing more accountability and transparency to a federal contracting system that has long needed reform,” the official said.

The order also highlights various states’ “pay-to-play” laws, some of which require companies to disclose contribution information. Others limit political contributions by contractor companies and particular officials at the companies.

“This state innovation toward better government should be encouraged, and the federal government should draw from the best practices developed by the states,” the Obama administration's order states.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Reader Comments

Mon, Apr 25, 2011

I have not yet seen a contract where amount and type of political contributions is a part of the selection criteria leading to award. Thus, I see no legitimate reason to require such disclosure.

Fri, Apr 22, 2011 Ma.

I am more worried about contracts being awarded on the basis of who you did or did not contribute for political reasons rather than who you contributed to 'get the contract'. Remember that the administration also has an interest in receiving political contributions for their contract decisions. This works both ways. It only appears to be a means of 'cleaning up the process'. It's just as likely to be a means of deciding that you lose the contract because you failed to contribute to the "right" side.

Fri, Apr 22, 2011 Grand Rapids, MI

One more requlation to drive up the cost of government procurement.

Fri, Apr 22, 2011 Olde Sarge DC

If they sqeal, there's a deal. Kyle probably is associated with the contractors who need oversight. The easy solution is to require all federal contractors provide this information to OMB annually. Don't link it to the specific contract. Then publish the information to If its not included in the RFQ/RFP responsed it can't influence the selection process. However, having the information already disclosed makes the IGs job much easier if an award is challenged or is investigated for COI reasons.

Thu, Apr 21, 2011 Fred the Fed (Contractor)

I just love it. The patriotic thing to do is bar these contributions in the first place. If not, the second best thing is to expose them immediately upon funds transmittal to the political candidate or cause. The trigger should not be a bid, for goodness sake. Like individual contributions, a company's contribution should quickly become a public record. We have far too much COI, winking, and legalized corruption in the MI Complex to fail to shine a light on this, or to avert our eyes.

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