The campaign against dark money is not one the Obama administration can wage alone. This has become obvious due to the fact that despite coming out strongly against undisclosed political spending, the administration has all but abandoned its efforts to require federal contractors disclose political donations.
Last year the administration composed a draft executive order that would have forced potential government contractors to disclose political spending as a condition of submitting bids. But after 12 months no final order has been issued and both supporters and critics say they’ve seen no signs one is coming.
“The executive order can potentially come back after the 2012 elections,” said Craig Holman, lobbyist for Public Citizen, a government watchdog group that has been urging the greater transparency. “But I don’t consider it still being contemplated.”
Holman said Obama sent clear signals the issue has been pushed to the backburner in January when the president declined to pitch it in his State of the Union address. “Obama neglected to even mention it,” Holman said with disappointment. “I consider it not to be even on the agenda.”
Leaked last April, the administration’s draft order would have required contractors vying for federal projects to disclose any contributions to candidates, parties or third-party political groups exceeding $5,000 in the two years prior to submitting the bid. The rule would have applied to both companies and the individuals running them.
For their part congressional Democrats are trying to roll back the damage from Citizens United. Democrats in both chambers have introduced legislation on campaign spending that’s broader than the administration’s draft executive order. The Disclose Act — sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) — would force corporations, including government contractors, to reveal all political contributions above $10,000 and take public credit for the political ads they sponsor.
Both bills have the backing of the Obama administration. However the larger question remains: does Washington have the political fortitude to tackle the single greatest threat to American democracy?
Photo from bfishadow via flickr.