Senator denounces Obama budget text on disclosure of contractor gifts

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, says she has exposed language in the Obama administration’s fiscal 2013 budget that would keep open the possibility of controversial new requirements on federal contractors to disclose their campaign contributions.

After a draft executive order was leaked in April 2011 indicating the administration was preparing such a requirement, Congress enacted language in the 2012 Defense authorization bill forbidding such manditory disclosure for contractors. Broader language covering all agencies was then included in December’s fiscal 2012 omnibus spending bill.

“The White House, contrary to the intent of Congress, is apparently still trying to advance a policy that would inject politics into the federal contracting process instead of focusing on promoting competition and best value in contracting,” Collins said Monday.

“What possible good can come from linking political information to a process which must be grounded solidly and unequivocally on providing the very best value to American taxpayers?” she asked. “It is unfathomable why this administration would consider a move that would, at worst, corrupt the process, and at best, create a perception that political beliefs of private citizens are to be considered in selecting the winners and losers among businesses vying for federal contracts.”

Her complaint was backed by the Stan Soloway, president and chief executive officer of the Professional Services Council, a contractor’s trade group, who said, “neither political contributions nor any other political litmus test questions has a place in the federal marketplace.” He complimented Collins “and others for staying on top of this risk to the integrity of the federal contracting process and we appreciate her efforts to ensure agency procurement decisions should be based on merit and nothing but merit.”

The council would like the specific ban on requiring Pentagon contractors to disclose campaign gifts broadened to prevent civilian agencies from asking for that information after the award of a contract.

The intent of the administration’s budget language -- specifically, the use of brackets in its discussion of general provisions -- was not especially clear. A recent news analysis by the National Association of Government Contractors said the fate of the draft order requiring contractor gift disclosure has been put on hold.

The Office of Management and Budget issued a statement saying, “as a matter of course consistent with prior practice, the administration addresses in its budget proposal if it would keep, delete or modify every general provision in Titles 6 and 7 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act for 2012. It would be inaccurate to draw any conclusions about future actions based on this practice."

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