By Bill Wilson – On April 18, the Heritage Foundation’s Hans A. von Spakovsky, a former Federal Election Commissioner, broke a story for Pajamas Media about a draft executive order by the White House to compel companies, their directors, and officers to disclose donations to candidates, parties, campaign committees, and non-profit groups that make independent expenditures during an election cycle.
The executive order would apply to both “[a]ll contributions or expenditures to or on behalf of federal candidates, parties or party committees made by the bidding entity, its directors or officers, or any affiliates or subsidiaries within its control” and to “[a]ny contributions made to third party entities with the intention or reasonable expectation that parties would use those contributions to make independent expenditures or electioneering communications.”
As von Spakovsky notes, contractors are already barred from making “[a]ny contribution of money or other things of value, or to promise expressly or impliedly to make any such contribution to any political party, committee, or candidate for public office or to any person for any political purpose or use.” So why the seeming redundancy?
The additional obligation, von Spakovsky writes, is that “this will require companies to delve into the personal political activities of their officers and directors — and require them to report political contributions those employees have made, not out of corporate funds (which is illegal), but out of their personal funds.” And therein lays the motive.
As part of the contract-awarding process, the White House wants to know who is giving to whom and will surely make decisions based on that knowledge. This is corrupt Chicago-style political thuggery at its worst.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell strongly condemned the draft order, saying, “No White House should be able to review your political party affiliation before deciding if you’re worthy of a government contract. And no one should have to worry about whether their political support will determine their ability to get or keep a federal contract or keep their job.”
McConnell continued, “Democracy is compromised when individuals and small businesses fear reprisal, or expect favor from the federal government as a result of their political associations.” He’s right. This adds a criterion that affects the awarding of bids that has nothing to do with the price of the contract or the efficiency with which it would be delivered.
Instead, the order will likely have four effects disrupting activities otherwise protected by the First Amendment and distorting the bidding and awarding process: 1) it will intimidate directors, officers, and employees of federal contractors from engaging in political speech and from making donations to candidates and organizations engaged in express advocacy; 2) it will cause others to believe that they need to pay up with the right people in order to get a contract; 3) it will increase the price of federal contracts and lead to inefficiencies; and 4) it will institutionalize corruption as contracts are awarded on the basis of who the employees of the contractor are donating to.
The sheer bias and outrage of this order is indicated by who it does not apply to, as von Spakovsky notes: “Federal employee unions that negotiate contracts for their members worth many times the value of some government contracts are not affected by this order. Neither are the recipients of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal grants.”
So, labor bosses and advocacy organizations that receive federal subsidies, particularly those that have been supportive of Barack Obama and Democrats more broadly, would be exempt from the disclosure requirements. How convenient.
Making matters worse, atop the corruption of the federal contracting process is Obama’s attempt to arbitrarily amend the laws of the land by executive decree. Federal contractor requirements cannot be changed without a vote in Congress. This is an end-run around Congress, with the Obama Administration once again attempting to implement administratively what it cannot achieve legislatively.
The White House could not get the DISCLOSE Act passed last year, and so the draft executive order would compel federal contractors to publicize its employees’ donations to candidates, parties, and also political non-profits that make independent expenditures.
The executive order would apply to any donations in excess of $5,000 in a given year. Any contractor and its directors and officers that donates in the past two years in excess of the specified minimum to an organization that engages in express advocacy of a candidate would have their names submitted to http://data.gov.
Senator McConnell held out hope that the executive order would never be enacted, saying, “It is my sincere hope that recent reports of a draft Executive Order were simply the work of a partisan within the Obama administration and not the position taken by the President himself.” Let us hope he’s right.
Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Bill on Twitter at @BillWilsonALG.