Legislation Introduced in House and Senate to Bar Administration from Inserting Politics into Federal Contracting

May 26, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, Rep. Tom Cole, and Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves today introduced legislation that would prohibit federal agencies from collecting or using information relating to campaign contributions and other political expenditures by potential contractors in the federal procurement process.

In April, the Administration floated the idea of an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to collect information about the campaign contributions and other political expenditures of potential contractors before awarding any federal contract.

On May 12th the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and House Small Business Committee held a joint hearing where the White House witness repeatedly refused to answer questions, including where the draft executive order came from and whether individuals outside the White House were involved in crafting it.

The “Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of  2011” reaffirms the fundamental principle that federal contracts should be awarded free from political considerations and be based on the best value to the taxpayers.  Specifically, the bill would:

  • Prohibit a federal 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).

“This legislation preempts an executive order designed to silence and intimidate job creators and Americans who are passionate enough to a support cause,” said Chairman Issa. “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.”

“The administration’s proposal would effectively politicize the federal procurement process. Under the executive order, companies could be unfairly judged on the basis of politics as opposed to their professional capabilities,” said Rep. Cole. “Government agencies should award contracts based on merit and value to taxpayers — not politics. Americans should have the right to support the political candidates and causes of their choosing without fear that their income will be jeopardized.  This legislation protects the rights of businesses and keeps politics out of the federal procurement process.”

“Forcing small businesses that are seeking government contracts to disclose political contributions will wrongly politicize the federal procurement process,” said Chairman Graves. “Government contracts are supposed to be awarded based on merit, not political support. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that this is a bad idea because we need less politics in Washington, not more. In addition, Congress and the Supreme Court have both already weighed in on this topic, so an Executive Order would circumvent and disrespect the regular policy-making process.”

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senators Lamar Alexander and Rob Portman introduced a Senate companion bill.

The text of the“Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of 2011” can be found here. 

Click here for information about the Senate companion bill.

###