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Posted at 12:35 PM ET, 05/11/2011

After subpoena threat, White House budget official to testify on contractor contribution disclosure


A White House budget official will testify at a hearing Thursday following a subpoena threat from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). (Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg)
A White House budget official will testify Thursday at a joint congressional hearing on the Obama administration’s proposal to require companies seeking federal contracts to disclose their political contributions.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is holding Thursday’s joint hearing together with the House Small Business Committee, announced Wednesday that Daniel Gordon, the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget, will testify on the draft executive order, which has yet to be issued.

The move follows a subpoena threat from Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Ga.) and Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Ga.) as well as criticism from House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who told reporters Tuesday that he disagreed with the administration on the matter.

Both committees had originally invited OMB Director Jack Lew and Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients to testify at the hearing, titled “Politicizing Procurement: Would President Obama’s Proposal Curb Free Speech and Hurt Small Business?”

According to an Oversight Committee aide, Issa and Graves sent a letter to the White House on April 27 inviting both officials to testify. They did not hear back until Monday, when Lew sent a letter declining the invitation since the executive order was still in the process of being drafted.

Issa and Graves responded the same day in a letter to Lew stating that they were prepared to resort to the “compulsory process” of utilizing subpoena power if necessary. The White House then offered to make Gordon available, and Issa and Graves agreed, the aide said.

While Gordon likely won’t be able to go into the details of the order since it’s still being drafted, he is certain to get an earful from members who have expressed concerns.

The White House and Democrats have defended the order -- which echoes previous legislative efforts to counter the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case -- as a means of promoting transparency and accountability from federal contractors. Republicans have charged that it is an attempt to politicize the bidding process.

In the Citizens United case, the court ruled that companies can spend as much as they want to support or oppose individual candidates.

In addition to Hoyer, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the Oversight Committee whose northern Virginia district is home to thousands of contractors, said Tuesday that while he believes the administration’s intent is not to bring politics into the contracting process, the order could wind up having that effect.

“I understand and I support legislation to refine the Citizens United decision, which I think ranks as one of the most wretched Supreme Court decisions in American history,” Connolly said.

“Having said that, I am concerned that, surely unintentionally, the administration’s desire to get at transparency and accountability may also look like it’s having – or will have – a chilling effect on the ability of people freely to participate in the political process and donate as they see fit,” he continued. “So I think we’ve got to look at that before we embrace one approach or another.”

Connolly added that he believed Thursday’s hearing would provide an opportunity for members to have their questions on the executive order addressed by administration.

“I think we’ll have more clarity after that testimony,” Connolly said.

By  |  12:35 PM ET, 05/11/2011

 
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