GOP senators press Obama to drop contractor disclosure order


(Mark Wilson/Via Bloomberg)
”Eye

A draft proposal on the issue is under review and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said last week that Obama believes taxpayers deserve to know how contractors are spending money they’ve earned from the government.

“His goal is transparency and accountability,” Carney said. ”That’s the responsible thing to do when you’re handling taxpayer dollars.”

Many Republicans however believe that the move could allow the White House to muzzle political critics. And now they want to know exactly how Obama would go about reviewing a contractor’s political history.

Doing so “could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of individuals to contribute to the political causes or candidates of their choice,” according to a letter written by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and signed by 24 other GOP senators. “Political activity would obviously be chilled if prospective contractors have to fear that their livelihood could be threatened if the causes they support are disfavored by the Administration.”

“No White House should be able to review your political party affiliation or the causes you support before deciding if you are worthy of a government contract,” the senators write in a letter set for delivery today. “And no Americans should have to worry about whether their political activities or support will affect their ability to get or keep a federal contract or their job.”

In her letter, Collins and the other senators ask the White House to explain how the administration would review a company’s political activity and whether political appointees would be involved in reviewing a contractor’s political history. If the White House proceeds with the order, the senators suggest it should establish similar reviews of unions entering into collective bargaining agreements with federal agencies.

Contracting firms are also opposed to the potential executive order. Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a group representing contracting companies, said forcing government contracting officers to review a company’s political activity would amount to “force-feeding irrelevant information” into the process.

“The rule would actually do precisely what it is intended to stop: inject politics into the source selection process,” Soloway said.

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• FY-Eye: Obama is expected to announce a national security staff shuffle this week. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke prepares to make history — by holding a press conference. The Treasury Department is quietly preparing to raise the debt ceiling — and might have to borrow from a pension fund for federal workers.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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