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WSJ: “Mandatory Disclosure Would Impose Politics On Federal Procurement Choices As Never Before”‏

April 25th, 2011 by mopns · No Comments

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent editorial today on the Obama administration’s latest plans to circumvent Congress by implementing parts of the DISCLOSE Act via executive order, which was first uncovered by former FEC Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky last week.

The WSJ editors write, “The order would implement parts of last year’s Disclose Act, which failed to pass Congress but was a favorite of Democrats because it would deter political contributions by business after last year’s Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision. . . . The draft of the executive order describes the rule’s purpose as a way to ensure the federal contracting system is free from the influence of ‘political activity or political favoritism.’ Hmmm. Last we checked, government contractors were already required to disclose contributions to candidates. The new twist here is the disclosure of donations to independent groups, a category in which conservatives outspent liberals for the first time in the last election cycle.”

“And what do you know,” the editors point out.  “The draft order doesn’t cover federal employee labor unions, the Democratic allies whose free speech rights were recognized alongside corporations in Citizens United. Nor do the disclosure requirements extend to recipients of federal grants, which often run into the millions of dollars. These donees are usually Democrats too.”

Further, they explain, “Mandatory disclosure would impose politics on federal procurement choices as never before. . . . Disclosure may sound nice, but the real point is to put companies on notice that their political contributions will have, well, consequences. When the Disclose Act was before Congress, New York Democrat and co-sponsor Chuck Schumer made clear the bill was designed to ‘embarrass companies’ out of exercising the rights recognized in Citizens United. ‘The deterrent effect should not be underestimated,’ he said.”

As the editors conclude, “The point of all this is to discourage political speech by certain speakers. Citizens United was a landmark victory for liberty because it blew a huge hole in the architecture of campaign finance limits that had increasingly restricted political speech. Having failed to overrule Citizens United in Congress, Democrats now want to do it via executive diktat.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had a similar reaction last week, saying, “Democracy is compromised when individuals and small businesses fear reprisal, or expect favor from the federal government as a result of their political associations.  So recent press reports about an unprecedented draft Executive Order raise troubling concerns about an effort to silence or intimidate political adversaries’ speech through the government contracting system. If true, the proposed effort would represent an outrageous and anti-democratic abuse of executive branch authority. No administration should use the federal contracting system for campaign purposes.”

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