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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