We have had the first break in the Democratic cone of silence over President Obama’s proposed Executive Order that attempts to implement provisions of the failed DISCLOSE Act. The EO would require government contractors to report all of their contributions (including the personal contributions of their employees) to candidates, as well as donations to third-party, independent organizations that engage in political speech prior to bidding on government contacts.
John Fund at the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Steny Hoyer (D-MD.), House Minority Whip and the second-ranking member of the Democratic Leadership, has parted ways with President Obama. Hoyer told reporters that he was “not in agreement with the administration” and that he didn’t think such disclosure “ought to be a requirement.” Hoyer echoed fears expressed by Republican members of Congress that this would bring political considerations into government contracting, saying that “The issue of contracting ought to be on the merits of the contactor’s application and bid and capabilities.” Hoyer added that there “are some serious questions as to what implications there are if somehow we consider political contributions in the context of awarding contracts.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA.), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has a hearing scheduled today on the draft EO titled “Politicizing Procurement: Would President Obama’s Proposal Curb Free speech and Hurt Small Business?” Issa ran into a wall with the White House when he asked for the head of the Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew, to testify at the hearing. The White House refused, but relented yesterday in the face of subpoena threats from Issa. Politico is reporting that the White House agreed to send over the head of federal procurement policy at OMB, Daniel Gordon, to testify, although it is still apparently insisting that he will not be able to speak about the EO because it is only a draft.
Stay tuned – it looks like the fight is just starting over the White House’s latest attempt to stifle political speech and bring politics into government contracting.
UPDATE: The crack in the dike is obviously spreading. Another Democrat has joined House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer in voicing opposition to President Obama’s proposed Executive Order. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Contracting of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has signed a May 12 letter to President Obama protesting the EO along with Susan Collins (D-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). The letter says that the draft EO “risks injecting politics into the contracting process.” This is a particularly significant development because Lieberman is actually the Chairman of the Senate Committee.