This post has been updated since it was first published.
The second-ranking House Democrat said Tuesday that opposes a potential executive order that would require companies seeking federal contracts to disclose political contributions that would remain secret under current law.
“I’m not in agreement with the administration on that issue,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters at his weekly roundtable.
The order has not been issued, but a draft copy was obtained last month by Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department civil rights official in the George W. Bush administration.
The White House has defended requiring greater disclosure from those seeking federal contracts, arguing that it would promote accountability and transparency.
But Republicans have said the opposite is true, charging that the order would amount to a political test that would allow the White House to dole out contracts to its allies and muzzle its critics.
Hoyer said Tuesday that mixing the disclosure issue with the application for federal contracts could lead Democratic donors whose bids are denied by a Republican White House to blame political motivations, and vice versa.
“I think the issue on contracting ought to be on the merits of the contractor’s application and bid and capabilities,” Hoyer said. “I think the other aspects are, frankly, I think there are some serious questions as to what implications there are if somehow we consider political contributions in the context of awarding contracts.”
A spokeswoman for Hoyer said that the Democrat does not believe that the Obama administration had any political motivations behind its proposed order.
"Mr. Hoyer is not saying he thinks the administration’s goal in putting forward this proposal is to use disclosure to award contracts, or that the administration would do that," Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said later Tuesday that he welcomed Hoyer’s response to the issue.
“I’m glad to see that somebody on the other side is standing up to this blatant attempt to intimidate people into either not contributing to causes the administration opposes,” he said, “or, to the contrary, basically, as Senator [Susan] Collins [R-Maine] has pointed out on several occasions, basically repealing the Hatch Act by putting politics back into the procurement process -- a truly outrageous suggestion, which the White House still has an opportunity to not go forward with.”
“We’ll be watching that very closely,”McConnell said.
The issue will be in the spotlight Thursday when House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Ga.) hold a hearing on the matter.
The Hill reported earlier Tuesday that Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew has declined to participate in the hearing, noting that the executive order is being drafted. Issa has threatened to subpoena Lew.