U.S. President Barack Obama may use his executive authority to require federal contractors to disclose their political contributions. The move would be acting on a promise the President made during his final State of the Union address.
“We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections,” Obama said during his address, according to The Washington Post.
After the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, private companies and labor unions have been able to spend as much as they want on campaign contributions -- and do it secretly, protected by the First Amendment.
Now the President is strongly considering a “dark money” executive order, which would force companies with federal government contracts to be transparent about their political spending to influence the outcome of elections, The New York Times reports.
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Congress had a chance to address the issue with the 2012 DISCLOSE Act, a bill which was squashed by Senate Republicans.
“I will continue to do everything I can to repair the deficit of trust between Washington and the American people,” Obama said at the time, according to The Washington Post.
Organizations dedicated to removing the influence of corporate money out of elections have been urging the president to use his executive authority for years.
“This issue of dealing with the systemic problem of money in politics is outrageously popular, and there’s no rational reason for the administration to be presiding over an approach of do-nothingness — it has been a huge disappointment,” Lisa Gilbert, director of grassroots organization Public Citizen, told The New York Times. “We took this loud call to action in the State of the Union as a signal that they are changing course.”
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The potential executive order has already been met with some pushback.
“The real goal of the disclosure proponents is to harass, intimidate and silence those with whom they disagree,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Blair Latoff Holmes. “We continue to believe that one’s political activities should play no role in whether or not you get or keep a federal contract, and we encourage the administration to leave this bad idea right where it is.”
The Obama administration is likely to make an announcement on the executive order soon, as the President has started his final year in office reportedly eager to fulfill a number of his 2008 campaign promises.
White House Chief of Staff Denis R. McDonough told reporters that the President’s new litmus test for signing executive orders would be, “Why not?”
“If future Republican presidents lived by this 'Why not?' standard, Democrats would be outraged,” Senate Majority Leader Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky countered, according to The Hill.
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told The Washington Post that Obama would be more than happy to trust Congress with keeping federal contractors accountable for their political spending, but that they passed on the issue.
“Four our part, we are going to continue to consider actions we can take on the administration level to combat this problem,” Schultz said.