This is one of those issues which I foolishly thought had died on the vine, but it seems to be rearing its ugly head again. Plans are apparently still afoot for an executive order which would effectively build an end run around the Citizens United decision by forcing all government contractors to reveal their political donations before they could be considered in awarding contracts. Dozens of members of the House tried to squelch the idea back in May.

“This Executive Order is a cynical attempt to inject politics into federal government contracting under the guise of transparency and accountability,” said Rep. Rokita. “It will create an ‘enemies list’ that the Administration and their liberal allies will use to punish private citizens and their employers. As a former Indiana Secretary of State who oversaw elections, I find this to be an outrageous overreach by the President. I call on the President to withdraw this Executive Order and inform him that should he decide not to, members of the House are prepared to take legislative action to prevent it from taking effect.”

The American Enterprise Institute has a new paper out covering the subject. A few of the key points of the paper are:

  • Following a defeat in Citizens United, the Obama administration is making an unprecedented assault on free speech through a proposed executive order requiring federal bidders to disclose their political giving during the previous two years as a condition to being considered for a federal contract.
  • Under the guise of “transparency” and “accountability,” the order curtails constitutionally protected speech rights and opens the door for retaliation against those not supporting the administration politically.
  • Neither the media nor defenders of free speech are challenging the administration’s actions, but anonymous political speech should remain a cornerstone of American democracy.

I find this proposal simply baffling. Not only doesn’t it sit well at first glance, when you pause to think about it, it actually promotes the precise opposite effect than the stated intent of the president. If you want to “keep the money out of politics,” then that’s fine. But by making contractors declare what donations they’ve made, not only do you open the door to a crony contract award system, but you actually encourage contractors to dump more money into the political sphere in the hopes of landing contracts.

It’s also short sighted thinking, even if you’re trying to game the system as this order appears to do. What happens when you lose the next election and a member of the opposite party takes control? All of your friends are now out of jobs and a new set of patrons come in the revolving door. Isn’t this exactly the opposite of what you were hoping to accomplish?

Bad policy and an ill conceived scheme if you ask me.