Lawmakers block contractor disclosure of political support

Lawmakers have blocked any chance of advancing the Barack Obama administration’s draft proposal that would require companies to include in a bid for a contract which political candidates and parties they support.

The fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act conference report states that the government “may not require a contractor to submit political information related to the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier, or any partner, officer, director, or employee of the contractor or subcontractor.” The information can’t be included in bids or other communications with industry in connection with a contract award and then throughout the life of a contract.

The provision is a reaction to a draft proposal that the administration circulated. Under the proposal, companies would have had to disclose the information if the total amount of contributions exceeded $5,000 in a year. Furthermore, officials wanted the contribution data made public through a searchable online database.

Officials said the goal is to increase transparency and accountability in procurement. The order highlighted  “pay-to-play” laws in effect in several states, some of which require companies to disclose contribution information.

“Taxpayers deserve to feel confident that federal contracting decisions are based on merit alone and are not influenced by political favoritism,” an administration official said in April.

The White House did not officially release the order, but it was going through the standard review and feedback process in April.

Some members of Congress feared the repercussions of such a proposal.

In response to the draft proposal, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said companies would opt out of contracting with the government. House Small Business Committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said such an order would stifle the small-business community in particular.

The National Defense Authorization conference report must be passed by the House and Senate, and then sent to Obama’s desk for his signature before it becomes law. House and Senate votes are expected this week.

As for the entire bill, the AP reported that White House officials are reviewing the bill, but it was unclear whether they would hold firm on a veto threat.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 SoutheastUS

On the one hand, it would be nice to know which elected officials are being so generously funded for their re-election by contractors/vendors bidding on government procurements. On the other hand, the elected officials in power might unfairly pressure contracting officers to "disallow" bids from contractors/vendors that have supported opponents. It doesn't matter how low your bid is, if it is disallowed on a technicality, you are out of the running for the contract.

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 Ellery Milmine Long Beach CA

No self respecting congresman Who is not willing to appear to be taking bribes would oppose this bill,to oppose it is almost an admission he or she is taking inforcement should pay close attention to those who oppose this bill. I work in an Industery where this takes place and those that pay more are under scruttiney as to why they are paying more for the same job!efficency in spending can only be accomplished where there are no closed doors.especialy to a bid process.all Incoming bids should be posted for comparison after acceptance of the job.

Wed, Dec 14, 2011

Only one word, Disgraceful.

Wed, Dec 14, 2011

We need the freedom to buy whichever Congressman/Senator will get us the biggest profit on our contract. We don't need to report who we have bought. Our competition doesn't need to know that. It would only drive up the cost of buying Congressmen.

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