A year ago, in the wake of the Citizens United decision, the White House floated a plan to issue an executive order which would require federal contractors to disclose their political contributions. This mirrored the kind of transparency they wanted out of the DISCLOSE Act. In the absence of the Act, this would serve as a pretty decent substitute, since most major corporations did some manner of business with the federal government.
Republicans predictably called it a witch hunt, claiming that future contractors would be chosen based on their patronage of the political party in power. This neglects the extent to which this already happens, of course. But there were obviously ways to eliminate using that data for such a purpose, through double-blind or delayed disclosure.
This pushback, however, appears to have been enough to stop the idea altogether.
A year ago, the White House composed a draft executive order that would have forced potential government contractors to reveal their political spending as a condition of submitting bids. But roughly 12 months later, no final order has been issued, and supporters and critics alike say they’ve seen no signs such a change is forthcoming.
“The executive order can potentially come back after the 2012 elections,” said Craig Holman, lobbyist for Public Citizen, a government watchdog group that has been urging the greater transparency. “But I don’t consider it still being contemplated [now].”
Campaign finance changes are a long shot in this Congress. A new version of the DISCLOSE Act could get a vote in May, but nobody seriously expects it to pass, especially not in the House. Meanwhile, SuperPACs without disclosure rules are preparing their first ads of the general election, the first of $200 million in campaign spending this cycle.
And now, the Administration has been spooked off this minor effort to improve disclosure. Obviously it was only a disclosure rule, which we’ve seen from this Republican primary hasn’t stopped that collection of wealthy individuals from delivering millions to their favored candidates. But corporations appear more sensitive to the charge of funding one side of a political issue. If they can do it without disclosure, they will be more likely to ring the register.