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.

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Reader comments

Thu, Apr 21, 2011

This is Chicago style politics at its ugliest. Obama wants to know which party each vendor contributed to so he can reward his friends and punish his enemies. If Bush tried to do something like this while he was in office you know that the Democrates would have screamed bloddy murder, and Obama would have been hollering the loudest of them all. Just another blatent abuse of power that will get swept under the rug by the media.

Thu, Apr 21, 2011

Really? This is over the line and is being pushed for transparency reasons? Maybe because nothing else this administration has done has been transparent and the pre-election promises are being hailed cause the election is approaching. So If I am a contractor and give heavily to the GOP or Dems, depending on who is in office, could determine if the contract is awarded - don't you dare think this would not have an affect on contract awards. Give me a break!

Thu, Apr 21, 2011

The guidance from the President implies that political leaders are influencing the actions and decisions made by Contracting Officers and evaluation boards. Why should we violate the privacy of individuals and firms in order to address a problem that mey or may not exist? If it exists, than the problem should be addressed directly.

Thu, Apr 21, 2011 Larry Allen

There is nothing good that can come out of this and it is political pandering at its worst. On the one hand you can read into this an attempt to try to brand contractors with a scarlett letter and effectively deny to them the same rights that others have. Who says you have to give up your basic citizen rights merely to sell to the government? Where in the FAR is that written? On the other hand, this can be seen as an attempt at political extortion. I.e. "Support my camapign if you want to keep doing government business". Either way, no one wins. Ill-conceived and utimately would do more harm than good.

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 Peter G. Tuttle, CPCM, Fellow

Isn't it going to sort of hard to regulate this, since Contractors are not supposed to use appropriated funds for these type of activities in the first place? This will be an VERY interesting debate, especially if the Obama Administration eventually wishes to consider personal political contributions on the part of company owners or officers as part of the evaluation - contract award process.

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