Reporting political contributions would be bad for business, senator warns
- By Matthew Weigelt
- May 25, 2011
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) warned President Obama's top procurement policy official May 25 that competition and small-business outreach would be stifled if the administration requires companies to include political contribution information in their contract bids.
“If you want more competition, there should not be an executive order that will be doing the exact opposite,” Collins, the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said during a hearing. (Watch the hearing and read the testimony.)
The Obama administration has been circulating a draft order that would require potential contractors to say what candidates and causes they have supported with political contributions over the past two years. The order would require information from companies’ executives and managers on whom they supported with personal money, not simply the company as an entity.
House hearing heats up over contractor disclosure order
Contractors required to disclose political contributions
Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, testified that the administration is driving for more competition because it lowers costs and boosts the quality of service the government gets from companies.
He also said the administration wants to get more small businesses involved in the federal market.
Collins said the executive order would stop that from happening. Contractors would opt out of a competition, believing support for the opposing political party or agenda would all but end their chances for winning the contract, she said.
When asked for his personal opinion on the order, Gordon would not give it because the order is only in a draft form. However, he did say the evaluations of companies’ bids should be objective, and would not be influenced by who or what a bidder supports. Even so, a company can file a bid protest if it believes the process was compromised.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Gordon’s answer and the administration’s assurances about political contribution information's influence in procurement “really entertaining.”
“Some of us have been around too long to accept that sort of answer,” he said.
Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.