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Obama May Make U.S. Contractors Disclose Political Donations

April 20 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration has drafted an executive order that would require government contractors to disclose some of their political donations, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Carney declined to confirm any specifics about the proposal, saying it “could change over time.”

President Barack Obama “is committed to improving our federal contracting system,” Carney told reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One to California. “His goal is transparency and accountability.”

Carney said the president’s goals with the order would be to let taxpayers know how federal government contractors spend their money “in terms of political campaigns.”

“That’s the responsible thing to do when you’re handling taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Politico reported yesterday that the administration is circulating an executive order that would require companies seeking government contracts to disclose contributions they make to groups that air political advertisements. Some of those contributions can now be kept secret, Politico said.

The draft order follows last year’s Supreme Court decision that struck down a federal law banning companies and unions from using money from their general treasuries to support or oppose political candidates. After the ruling, Obama urged Congress to pass legislation requiring additional disclosures to limit the impact of anonymous political spending.

Political Affiliation

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell today said Obama’s executive order was “outrageous.”

“No White House should be able to review your political party affiliation before deciding if you’re worthy of a government contract,” the Kentucky senator said in a statement.

Senate Republicans last September blocked that chamber from voting on legislation that would have required corporations and unions to disclose spending on political advertising.

Craig Holman, a campaign finance lobbyist for Public Citizen in Washington who advocates greater campaign spending disclosures, said the executive order shows a more “active role” being taken by the White House after the high court’s action.

“It really should be done by legislation so it would apply to everyone, but this is what the president can do,” Holman said. “He’s taking the regulatory approach to this.”

Blair Latoff, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobbying group, said the administration’s proposal would lead to government contracts being awarded on the basis of political views, instead of the best value for taxpayer dollars.

“The fear of political discrimination and retaliation is not just theoretical here,” she said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Nicholas Johnston in Washington at njohnston3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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