* Obama's executive order circulated in April
* Critics, including some Democrats, could stall effort
By Kim Dixon and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, June 14 The White House is under
pressure from consumer activists to follow through with its
plan to force government contractors to disclose their
political contributions, a rule that companies say will
politicize awards of government business.
Consumer group Public Citizen said on Tuesday it is among
those worried that the White House attempt to throw more light
on campaign spending will be put on the shelf after harsh
criticism from the business community.
President Barack Obama is working on an order to compel
bidders for federal contracts to disclose two years worth of
"We are concerned that the administration is hesitating on
issuing this key order, as the public deserves to know who's
spending what to elect members of Congress," said Lisa Gilbert,
deputy director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch. "Only those
who have something to hide prefer the dark."
In addition to donations above $5,000 to candidates, the
order would also require disclosure of contributions to third
parties that fund political advertisements.
Public Citizen pressed Obama in a letter sent on Tuesday to
sign the order. It said that before recent court decisions and
regulatory rulings, contractors routinely disclosed such
Outside groups spent tens of millions of dollars in the
last election without disclosing their donors, and activists
say that figure could reach the billion-dollar level or more in
the 2012 campaign season.
The order has been hit by withering criticism from
business groups, which say it would politicize contracting at a
time when the administration faces Republican charges that its
policies are hostile to business and inhibit hiring.
"The executive order injects a very real chance that
prospective contractors that fund political causes unpopular
with the government or the current administration may find that
they don't get a contract award due to political
discrimination," said Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Blair
But even some top Democrats such as Assistant House
Minority Leader Steny Hoyer have expressed doubts.
"If Obama doesn't think he is going to get a lot of support
for it, I'm not sure he will continue with it," said Melanie
Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for
Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Obama administration officials had no immediate comment.
The proposal was circulated in April, but has not been
acted on since, worrying groups that defend campaign finance
A landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United
case said independent expenditures by corporations do not give
rise to the appearance of corruption and are constitutional.
Political action committees of FedEx Corp (FDX.N), Lockheed
Martin Corp.(LMT.N) and General Electric (GE.N) gave the most
cash to politicians in 2010 among government contractors, an
analysis by Public Citizen using campaign finance and
procurement data found.
Another campaign finance reform group said they did not
have high hopes the order would go anywhere any time soon.
"Does the phrase 'slowly twisting in the wind' mean
anything?" Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign
Legal Center in Washington, which works on campaign finance and
(Editing by Jackie Frank)