April 26, 2011- So much for détente.
After a brief truce of sorts between the White House and business leaders, the top lobbyist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce took aim at President Obama on Tuesday over an as-yet unannounced plan to force government contractors to disclose their political giving.
The lobbyist, R. Bruce Josten, said in an interview that the powerful business bloc “is not going to tolerate” what it saw as a “backdoor attempt” by the White House to silence private-sector opponents by disclosing their political spending.
“We will fight it through all available means,” Mr. Josten said. In a reference to the White House’s battle to depose Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, he said, “To quote what they say every day on Libya, all options are on the table.”
While no final decision has been announced, the White House has acknowledged that Mr. Obama is considering issuing an executive order requiring all would-be federal contractors to disclose direct and indirect political spending of more than $5,000.
The order could, for instance, force a military contractor or an energy company seeking federal work to report money it gave to the Chamber of Commerce or another advocacy group to help finance political ads and expenditures.
After tens of millions of dollars in anonymous political spending flooded the 2010 elections following a landmark Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, Democrats tried to pass a bill known as the Disclose Act to require greater reporting of political spending, only to see it blocked by Senate Republicans. Democrats are now turning to other means, including the possible White House order and a lawsuit filed last week against the Federal Election Commission, to achieve similar ends.
When asked about the possible order this week, the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said, “What the president is committed to is transparency, and he certainly thinks that the American taxpayer should know where his or her money is going.”
The sparring over the issue disrupts several months of relative calm between the White House and business leaders.
The two sides clashed last year over Congressional action on health care and business regulations, with the chamber spending $42 million on the 2010 midterm elections to push its opposition to administration policies.