Will Congress nix Obama plan to collect contractors' political data?

The idea of disclosing political contributins as part of the procurement process may be dead as Congress moves toward pointedly banning the collection of such data in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

Lawmakers want to blocked any chance of advancing the Obama administration’s draft proposal that would require companies to include in a bid for a contract which political candidates and parties they support.

The 2012 NDAA conference report states that the government “may not require a contractor to submit political information related to the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier, or any partner, officer, director, or employee of the contractor or subcontractor.” The information can’t be included in bids or other communications with industry in connection with a contract award and then throughout the life of a contract.

The provision is a reaction to a draft proposal that the administration circulated. Under the proposal, companies would have had to disclose the information if the total amount of contributions exceeded $5,000 in a year. Furthermore, officials wanted the contribution data made public through a searchable online database.

Officials said their point was to increase transparency and accountability in procurement. The order highlighted various states’ “pay-to-play” laws, some of which require companies to disclose contribution information.

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

The White House did not officially release the order, but it was going through the standard review and feedback process in April.

Some members of Congress feared the repercussions of such a proposal.

In response to the draft proposal, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said companies would opt out of contracting with the government. House Small Business Committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said such an order would stifle the small-business community in particular.

The National Defense Authorization conference report must be passed by the House and Senate, and then sent to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature before it becomes law. House and Senate votes are expected this week.

As for the entire bill, the AP reported that White House officials are reviewing the bill, but it was unclear whether they would hold firm on a veto threat.

About the Author

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

Reader Comments

Wed, Dec 14, 2011

Anyone donating money suggesting it as a right to "Freedom of speach" should have to speak out so we can actually hear them. The idea that they would be so embarrassed as to opt out...I say good riddance (both sides). More likely, though, they would simply donate to the party in order to get "party favors". Personally, both sides need to start acting for the people and not for their parties and along with media stop characterizing everything like a whining bunch of babies.

Wed, Dec 14, 2011

What we really need is a law that reverses the Supreme Court's decision that corporations are people and therefore have a right to provide contributions to political campaigns. Why isn't anyone in Congress putting forward that kind of legislation? Oh, yeah. Both parties think they need corporate money in order to win. Meanwhile, we just pay for those contributions through higher prices and lost jobs.

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 Dave

Monstro, Have you considered the UNINTENDED consequences of this before you shamed the republicans? If a company must disclose political contributions, it can have the affect of excluding himfrom competition because the Source Selection didn't like whom the company made contributions too. This is a setup for even more Government corruption - but then again maybe that is the INTENDED consequence. Shame on the other party for even considering this breach of freedom.

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 Rick

Then there is the opposite of transparency - i.e. retaliation. Let's see, contractor A gave more to the current administration and contractor B gave more to the opposition, therefore let's reward contractor A with this lucrative government work. Yeah, that's how they do it in Chicago...

Wed, Dec 14, 2011

Sam Graves--explain how this will stifle the small business community. And Collins saying companies will opt out of contracting. How does anyone take these two seriously? Get them out of Congress. We need transparency in government contracting to prevent large corporations from running amok in Washington.

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