Bid to Curb Campaign Donors Hit; GOP, Business Groups Call Obama's Contractor Disclosure Plan One-Sided

Article excerpt

Byline: Tim Devaney, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Obama's plan to require government contractors to disclose campaign contributions is receiving a rocky reception from Republicans and even some advocates of transparency.

GOP lawmakers have joined the nation's leading business groups in condemning the move as a federal overreach and a backdoor way to hinder Republican fundraising efforts - and punish the corporations that support them.

Many transparency groups say it's a step in the right direction, but they aren't satisfied because Mr. Obama's plan doesn't go far enough.

The White House has floated a trial balloon to see what the political response would be, said John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute. He thinks the president is willing to consider changes.

Campaign-finance rules altered course in January 2010, when the Supreme Court opened the door for corporations and unions to contribute independent spending to the election process. That might include paying for a television commercial that favors, but is not endorsed by, a candidate.

Later that year, Democrats in the House and Senate introduced the Disclose Act, which would have limited the effect of the court's ruling by restricting government contractors and corporations with certain levels of foreign management or ownership from independent spending. Other companies would be allowed to use independent spending to support a campaign, but would be subject to transparency regulations. Congress never passed it.

Now, it is coming back on the president's will alone, Mr. Samples said. In its present form, the draft executive order would require government agencies to collect political-contribution information from contractors but not prevent them from donating.

Republicans and business groups say it isn't about transparency. They fear the party in charge of the White House at the time will make it more difficult for certain companies to win federal contracts.

You have to think about politics as a war, Mr. Samples said. This campaign-finance regulation in general is really about taking ammunition away from the other side.

On Tuesday, 25 congressional Republicans, including Sen. …