-By T.W. Farnam
July 28, 2011- More than 60 House Democrats have signed a letter asking President Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose political contributions.
The proposal is one of a handful floated in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision last year, which loosened restrictions on corporate political advocacy.
The letter indicates the strong support among rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers for a measure that has been attacked by Republicans.
“We believe that with public funds come public responsibilities,” the letter reads, “and anyone benefiting from taxpayer money has the responsibility to be fully transparent.”
In April, the White House first circulated a draft of the executive order, which would have required companies bidding on federal contracts to disclose political donations from their corporate coffers and top executives, including contributions to nonprofit advocacy groups that would not otherwise be a part of the public record.
The proposal was opposed by the business community and conservatives, who said it would politicize government contracting by making bureaucrats aware of political spending by bidders.
“If you were to get in a letter writing contest, there would be a lot more signatories asking the president not to finalize the executive order,” said Brad Smith, a co-founder of the Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes the regulation of political money. “It’s an effort to implement the Disclose Act through executive order,” he said, referring to unsuccessful Democratic legislation last year that was designed to force interest groups to reveal the sources of donations made in support of political advertising.
Supporters say disclosure is a necessary step to avoid the possibility of unknown contributions affecting contracting decisions.