House votes to block contractor disclosure

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Lawmakers want to make sure the White House’s draft executive order requiring contractors to report political contributions never becomes final.

Both House and Senate legislators introduced bills yesterday to prohibit agencies from collecting or using information relating to campaign contributions and other political donations by potential contractors.

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) introduced the Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of 2011, which they say reaffirms the fundamental principle that federal contracts should be awarded free from political considerations and be based on the best value to the taxpayers.

“This legislation preempts an executive order designed to silence and intimidate job creators and Americans who are passionate enough to a support cause,” said Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which held a hearing on the draft executive order May13, in a release.

Issa added, “Businesses should not have to determine and report to the government on whether certain employees contributed to organizations that support or oppose positions on issues including gay marriage and abortion. Imagine your employer asking for such information – it would happen for some if the current draft executive order is put in place.”

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced a companion bill.

The White House has been working on the draft executive order, which was leaked to the media in April, for several months. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and contractors raised concerns over it.

At the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing earlier this month and a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing May 26, administration officials balked at answering any specific questions about the proposal.

So lawmakers introduced bills to stop the draft EO from becoming final.

“This legislation protects the rights of businesses and keeps politics out of the federal procurement process,” Graves said.

The bills would:

  • Prohibit an agency from collecting the political information of contractors and their employees as part of any type of request for proposal in anticipation of any type of contract;
  • Prohibit the agency from using political information received from any source as a factor in the source selection decision process for new contracts, or in making decisions related to modifications or extensions of existing contracts; and
  • Prohibit databases designed to be used by contracting officers to determine the responsibility of bidders from including political information (except for information on contractors’ violations already permitted by law).

The Professional Services Council, an industry association, applauded the introduction of the bills.

“The Obama administration’s April 13 draft executive order inappropriately singled out contractors for these mandatory disclosure requirements, going well beyond current law and creating an unreasonable burden on contractors,” said Stan Soloway, president of PSC, in a release. “Moreover, the draft would actually inject political information into procurements where such information is not now considered. As such, this order should never see the light of day. Protecting the integrity of the procurement process is not a partisan issue, as demonstrated by the bipartisan approval of an amendment to the House-passed version of the Defense Authorization Act that would achieve similar ends.”

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act was approved by the House late Thursday, 261-163.

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