Companies can bid and lose out for the sin of donating to Republicans. Or they can protect their livelihoods by halting donations to the GOP altogether—which is the White House's real aim. Think of it as "not-pay to play."So what will the federal government do with this information? Are they going to deny contracts to companies that contribute to Republican candidates? What reason would there be for the federal government to have that information except for the Democratic Party to use that information against companies?
Whatever you call it, the order amounts to the White House brazenly directing the power of government against its political opponents—and at a time when the president claims to want cooperation on the budget and other issues. Senate Republicans from Mitch McConnell to Susan Collins are fuming, warning this is one political sucker punch too far, an unabashedly partisan move that will damage Senate work.
Minority Leader McConnell in an interview calls the order the "crassest" political move he's ever seen. "This is almost gangster politics, to shut down people who oppose them. . . . I assure you that this going to create problems for them in many ways—seen and unseen—if they go forward."
That might not matter to a White House that's already monomaniacally focused on 2012. Democrats are obsessed with the money game, in particular rubbing out any GOP opportunities that came with the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision to restore some corporate free-speech rights. Democrats last year tried to ram through the Disclose Act, designed to muzzle those new corporate rights, while allowing unions to continue spending at will.
When the party failed to get the bill through even an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate, the White House stepped up. The draft order, which came out last month, would require federal bidders to supply a complete list of all political contributions made by the company, its political action committee, and its senior executives—going back two full years. (Richard Nixon would be impressed.) More astounding, the order requires the list to include donations made to third-party political groups—disclosure that is not currently required by law, and that is, as a result, surely unconstitutional.
Ever audacious, the White House is spinning this as "reform," claiming taxpayers deserve to know how federal dollars being paid to contractors are being spent in campaigns. This might hold (a drop of) water if the executive order also required all the (liberal) entities that get billions in taxpayer dollars via federal grants and funding—unions, environmental groups, Planned Parenthood—to disclose also. It doesn't.
It says something for how odious this is that one of the leaders against it is Senator Susan Collins, not your rabid Republican.
The whole reform language is "Orwellian," says Ms. Collins. It's a measure of the order's naked political nature that she's leading the pushback—spearheading a GOP letter to the president and briefing Republican senators at a policy lunch this week. This is the same Susan Collins who has bucked her party in the past on campaign-finance issues, voting for McCain-Feingold.This is how partisanship enters into every aspect of life. One party crosses the line and then the other party, when it gets into power, will retaliate. A Republican president could rescind the order. Or could extend it to unions and liberal interest groups.
The administration's argument that this is about disclosure is "a fraud," she declares. The very notion "offends me deeply," she says, since the order undermines decades of work by her and others to ensure federal business is free of corruption of political influence.
The politics of the order have been so ugly that she argues the media has missed the equally profound policy implications. It's the "equivalent of repealing the Hatch Act," she argues, the seminal 1939 law designed to weed out federal pay-to-play.
It has taken decades to create a federal contracting system based on "best prices, best value, best quality," Ms. Collins says, and the effect of the Obama order is to again have "politics play a role in determining who gets contracts." Companies may choose not to bid, which will reduce competition and raise government costs. And the order puts "thousands of civil servants" who oversee contracting "in an impossible situation."
This order is questionable on constitutional grounds. Obama might not care figuring that the could get the information he wants in time for the 2012 election before the order could be struck down. Cynical gangsta government.