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  • Senators Ask White House to Abandon Executive Order Limiting Political Speech

    A group of senators is urging President Obama to reconsider a draft executive order to require would-be government contractors to disclose political contributions.

    Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), ranking member on the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) yesterday sent a letter signed by 25 of their Republican colleagues to the president to ask him to keep politics out of federal contracting.

    “We urge you not to issue the draft EO,” the letter states. “To ensure that taxpayers receive the best value for federal contracts, government procurements must be conducted in a manner that ensures a fair process. Your proposed EO does not appear to advance that goal.”

    The senators are joined in their disapproval of the order by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Executive Vice President Bruce L. Josten said he worries the draft order has attracted enough attention to make it probable the president will, in fact, issue the order.

    “There’s been too much visibility not to proceed,” Josten said, speaking at The Bloggers Briefing, hosted this week by the U.S. Chamber. “They’ve now created an expectation of this.”

    But Josten says the U.S. Chamber plans to work to reverse it if the president does issue it.

    The as-yet-unannounced executive order would require private contractors to reveal contributions to political action committees, trade associations and donations to independent organizations that engage in grassroots lobbying just to be eligible to compete for federal contracts. The draft order was first obtained and made public by Heritage senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky.

    Josten says such requirements would politicize what should be a straightforward process. The government should contract with whatever company offers the highest value for the lowest price — period. What political donations those companies have made in the past should be irrelevant.

    “Disclosure laws like this actually can and do create opportunities for discrimination and retaliation,” Josten said.

    Supporters of the executive order, on the other hand, defend it as a means to promote transparency.

    “What the president is committed to is transparency,” the president’s spokesman said, according to the New York Times. “He certainly thinks that the American taxpayer should know where his or her money is going.”

    But as Josten points out, contractors can’t use taxpayer dollars to make political contributions in the first place.

    “They already have laws on the books that prevent contractors from using any money from the contract for lobbying or political purposes, so this is completely unnecessary,” he said.

    Furthermore, many of the reporting requirements are duplicative. Information about political action money, for example, is already publicly available. The administration could easily access it without burdening businesses to report the information again.

    “It becomes a repetitive, redundant reporting requirement — from a president who said he wants to reorganize government, make it more efficient and reduce paperwork,” Josten said.

    Ultimately, of course, the executive order pertains to the prerogative of corporations to engage in free speech in the form of political donations. But on that, the courts have already ruled. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court upheld the right of corporations to engage in political speech — including the funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections.

    Congress has weighed in on the issue, as well, failing last year to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have reversed the Citizens United decision.

    If President Obama decides to issue the executive order, he’ll be acting unilaterally. Heritage’s von Spakovsky put it this way: “It really is amazing — they lost in the Supreme Court, they lost in Congress, they lost at the FEC, so now the president is just going to do it by edict.”

    The 27 senators who publicly oppose the executive order expressed dismay at the president’s end-run as well.

    “Given similarities between the draft EO and some provisions of the DISCLOSE Act, which was rejected by the Senate in its current form, we are also concerned that the EO may be an effort to circumvent Congress,” their letter states.

    Josten thinks the executive order strikes at privacy issues. The draft applies not only to corporations as entities: It also applies to the directors and officers of private contractors. Josten said this invades the privacy of those individuals, who he says should be able to make political donations as individuals, rather than as representatives of their businesses.

    A Supreme Court case — which Josten cited — exists for that aspect. In 1958, in NAACP v. the State of Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled the privacy of group membership is critical to the advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones.

    “Privacy can be important to free speech,” Josten said. “What we have here is a political order that dangles the specter of potential political retaliation or harassment.”

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    29 Responses to Senators Ask White House to Abandon Executive Order Limiting Political Speech

    1. YnotNOW, Colorado says:

      How could Obama even think that he could get away with any such unconstitutional and blatant infringement of the 1st Ammendment?

      (Note: I am not surprised that he would want to infringe, but he is too much of a politician to arouse the ire of voters to this degree – after all, he has already started his 2012 campaign.)

    2. George Colgrove VA says:

      This is one thing from Obama I do support. A contractor should not be benefitting from their contributions – period. If a contractor donates significant amount of money then ends up getting a contract from the federal government, we the people should know. This is not politics – this is corruption.

      It is my belief that with defense contractor alone scoring almost $400 billion annually or over 10% of the total budget or worse 19% of taxes collected there is room for knowing why.

      We the people should know what congress member got what and what legislation they fought for. It might explain such egregious federal spending that is going on and why our congress members are unwilling to reduce spending.

      Why hide this information? Moreover, what is troubling in these days where significant federal government cuts are desperately needed, why do republicans want to keep this information secret? What are they hiding?

    3. Pingback: Money and Democracy update: Disclosure fight heats up, Dems launch Crossroads answer, more « CitizenVox

    4. Pete, Houston Texas says:

      The union donations get them preferential treatment with the executive branch and it does not seem to be considered "Corruption of the process". So companies should also be able to purchase the favors that they desire. Next we will have ordinary citizens pooling their money to purchase the favors that they will want. Seems that politicians should be in a pretty good position with all that money coming their way. I think somewhere along the line taking the money ouf the may also take out the corruption. Maybe limiting any one donation to $5K might do some good per year to any one party affilition. Since the politicians can collect donations and then they donate to each other, seems like a pretty hard system to monitor who exactly gave what to who. .

    5. Randy131 in Florida says:

      This is how Obama anf the Chicago crime syndicate of political activities work. What makes these Senators think he'll change because they beg? Begging gets just the opposite results it asks for when dealing with bullies, and Obama and his Chicago buddies are all bullies. Just do as Obama does, ignore it, be it Executive Order or Law, just simply ignore it as the DOJ and Eric Holder does with everything Congress demands of them. Obama's Presidency and administration is the most secretive of any ever, and the hypocrite ran on the campaign of transparency in government, what a laugh. Even Nixon couldn't keep the things hidden that Obama and Holder do every single week. They even ignore federal court rulings against them, so follow their lead and do as they do, ignore this illegal Executive Order that he has threatened.

    6. Pingback: Is Obama Circumventing Congress to Restrict Political Speech? | The Foundry

    7. Candyman, Kansas says:

      The problem becomes that contractors can be punished because they contributed to the wrong political party, individual, or issue. If a donation is to a cause that President Obama objects to, for example, the contractor can be dropped for consideration for the bid. This order has already been decided by the Supreme Court, and the Congress. Of course, I am sure that you believe that the President of the United States is above the law. This one sure acts like he believes he is. Didn't the Democrates run Nixon out of office for the same type of actions – you know, acting like he was above the law?

    8. Timidbuck,Iowa says:

      This will be a great way for the administration to make sure a contractor is on their side.No government contracts for Republicans,right Prez!

    9. George, Maryland says:

      Congress does not award contracts. RFP's are released and private firms who are capable of performing the task bid. Example; Army COE issues an RFP for ordnance removal the companies submit bids to the COE district who released the RFP and that office alone determines who wins the contract, again no congress critter is involved.

    10. Nick says:

      Transparency doesn't play into this at all from the administration's point of view. This is looking at political donations and finding out which companies donated to the campaign. It gives preferential treatment to companies that give money to Democrats. And thus, more companies will have to give to Democrats, deepening Organizing for America's pockets.

    11. Tim Westhoven, Bowli says:

      I find myself divided on this one. For sure, government should not be in bed with corporations, choosing winners and losers as it has done so often recently. I think government should repeal laws that regulate for reasons not very strongly related to the general safety of people and let the free market work. Every time government involves itself in regulation of commerce, it creates unintended consequences that are far worse than the original issue it attempted to remedy. So businesses lobby in order to game the system because it can be gamed. Let business be business and government be government– we need a free market, lightly regulated.

    12. Mike, San Antonio says:

      @George – So, let me get this straight…you would limit the rights of citizens who are federal contractors, but not those who belong to unions or nonprofits like SEIU, La Raza/NCLR, NAACP, MoveOn, etc? If you're going to do it for one group, you must do it for all groups. I think it's hypocritical for Obama to issue an executive order on something that the other two branches of .our government have already ruled on.

    13. Phillip Ficarra, PA says:

      It appears to me that the President has two obstacles to overcome: is this measure appropriate and are the means he is now using to implement the measure appropriate?

      On the first point the Supreme Court, the Congress and the FEC have all already rejected this measure. On the second point, we have to ask ourselves by which constitutional authority and, more importantly, precedent allows an order such as this one to be enforced. An executive order that has implications for private corporations and private citizens within those corporations seems to me to be outside the limits of an executive order and has all the trademarks of being a political move…but that's my opinion, which by the way I know I can have since the Constitution clearly spells out my right to free speech. From a constitutional and precedent standpoint I doubt the President can point to a firm footing for this move.

      In response to prior posts, pre-supposing that political contributions from a company or individuals who work at the company somehow invalidates that company's ability to win a gov't contract is absurd and undermines the best deal to be had by the American taxpayer. By that rationale only those companies who have never contributed would be free of your charge of "corruption".

      I reject both the content of this measure and the means by which the President is seeking to institute it.

    14. David Cole, Houston, says:

      @ George -

      What does a contractor's contributions have to do with its ability to provide the best products or services to the Federal government at the lowest price?

      If Congress wanted this to happen, they would have passed the DISCLOSE Act. If the Supreme Court felt that there was basis for it, they would not have ruled as they did on Citizens United.

      No, I think the this Administration and the Left want information. Recall the fun and games that occurred in the People's Republic of Cali after Prop 8 went down.

      http://www.eightmaps.com

    15. Gayle Brown, Kansas says:

      This is not transparency. This is a political tool to promote only Union participation in the process and a way for the Democrats and Obama to stifle dissent against their policies and identify their enemies.

    16. Chuck, OK says:

      What? So Obama and his thugs/cronies can cherry-pick contractors? it's none of his business who donated what to whom. Contractors should be chosen solely on their ability to provide quality product/work at the lowest possible price. Period. If Congressmen, Senators and Presidents influence the choice of contractors, they should be brought up on criminal charges and/or impeached. That is the proper course of action, not opening a bigger can of worms by infringing on political speech.

    17. Mary G, Ohio says:

      This pretty much sums it up: “It really is amazing — they lost in the Supreme Court, they lost in Congress, they lost at the FEC, so now the president is just going to do it by edict.”

      While I'm all for transparency, that is not what this is all about. This is an "in your face" shot at the Supreme Court (SOTU Part II), a favor to his Union supporters (they're exempt from the E.O.), and with the recent memory of the protests at Target when their donations were disclosed – it's an attempt to close the purse strings and donations to conservative or republican candidates and causes. As an added bonus, it provides a good excuse to deny contracts for government jobs to those who donate to people he is opposed to.

      This thin-skinned narcissist will find one way or another to get his way. Transparency? In the end, the only thing not transparent is his motives!

    18. Ron Fleener, Oregon says:

      What about union contributions and their spending? What about all the other organizations, such as La Raza that receive some government funding? Who audits there use of money?

    19. Robert Young, TX says:

      To George Colgrove,

      In the article it explains that this information is not hidden already. It can be looked up by any entity wishing to find out who theyve given money to. Theres no secrecy to it, but to force potential contractors that wish to do some work, to cough up to Obama their payment history to politicians is corruption as well. He just wants an easy list of those that donated against him.

      I can see your point that the contractors who donate get the jobs being corrupt, but so too is our commander in chief wanting to see who they donated to, so they -cant- get a job equally if not more so corrupt. Shutting down political enemies in such a way is worse than rewarding supporters.

      Doesn't everyone get rewarded for supporting a candidate -if- that candidate wins? Why shouldnt a business or contractor equally benefit considering that they -are- made up of Americans as well.

      I dont believe treating a business made of Americans like unworthy citizens is a value Americans should be encouraging.

    20. Greg, Suburban Chica says:

      Of course he must be talking about big labor too. After all those are some of the biggest contracts the taxpayers enter into. They are enormous, I mean gigantic political contributors. Since Mr. Obama has been so very even handed in dealing with labor relations, he of course he wants to make sure that's all on the up-and-up as well. – -yeah, right.

      You can take the guy out of Chicago, but well, you know the rest.

    21. r. loll says:

      Who cares who they gave to as long as it meets bid requirements and is the low bid!!!

    22. Ann Phillips Ohio says:

      I believe its much more than that… I believe its a way to discriminate based on a persons Political affiliation.

    23. Pingback: Senators ask White House to abandon Executive Order limiting Political Speech « OBX Tea Party News

    24. David Nohe, Alamogor says:

      Why don't we just solve a LOT of our problems and eliminate this nonsense of "executive order". This applies to ALL presidents and governors. We have a process…use it. Executive orders, if they should exist at all, should be reserved for natural disasters where quick action is required.

    25. Kevin, Indio says:

      Every time I hear the Obama Administration b.s. about transparency. I think about how my Internet service crashed on both 2010 Election Day and the day Hillary attacked Libya. They are a Stalinesque goon squad who destroyed the Gulf of Mexico.

    26. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      I really have to rebut George Colgrove, Va., on this one! We do not want Obama pulling another fast one! How can you agree with such an incredably Unconstitutional Act? I call it a High Crime! Just the fact Obama is so pumped up on Unlimited Power that he would dream of going against All the Separate Branches of the Government AND against the People's Will! Do not kid yourself when Obama sets up this, the Seventeenth Dicatorship! Believe me, he gives as little as possible to the Loyal Opposition! They won't be allowed to get jobs unless they Pay Off the Sorcerer King! King Obama! It isn't a joke anymore! Oh George! How could you?

      People's money is their own money! You can't even look at how they spend it! It is already true that Unions are getting the Lion's Share of Obama Cash! (Oh! Boy! It's Obama Money! Let's go get some!) This is nothing but the preparations for a Purge! (Another One!) The fact the Proposed Executive Order is six ways illegal under the Constitution (and RICO) it reminds me of what Judge Vinson said. This is Obama asking for Unconstitutional Powers! This is Noblesse Oblige! This 'Precedent' is demanding Totalitarian Powers and Not Taking NO for an answer! I call for Obama's Impeachment! Heritage should call it ten seconds after the Order is Issued! This is just another Obama High Crime!

    27. Roger S., Mass. says:

      And I second your call. This is one thing — and one thing only: a "naked" power grab in the face of due legislative and judicial processes having decreed otherwise. The all too obvious motives are restriction on (conservative) free speech by intimidation. It amounts to extortion — to fund his 1 Billion reelection fund goal? Not being a "betting man", this would be an exception: one interpretation on which I'm willing to lay bets. About even with this one would be an attitude: "I'll show them!" — We need a president and leader in the WH, not a (childish) bully! "Impeach" can't be proclaimed loudly enough!

    28. Mary, Indianapolis, says:

      Thank God for Heritage! They keep up with the Marxists in the WH so we can know and take action in our small way to stop this regime from taking our constitution and overruling it out of existance.. Do whatever you can to defeat BO and the Dem's in 2012.

    29. Wanda Shepherd, Carm says:

      The American people are not fooled by the President. We know why he is given the order and it is not transparency. It is called Chicago politics.

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