WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Defense Department and related agencies would be prohibited from collecting information about political contributions made by businesses that wish to do business with the federal government under an amendment authored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved the amendment and it is now included in the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

Senator Collins is the Ranking Republican on the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Senator Portman is the Ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. They have oversight responsibilities for federal contracting.

Their amendment stipulates that the head of any government agency may not require a contractor competing for a federal contract to submit political information in connection with the solicitation or awarding of a DOD contract.

In April, the Administration proposed an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to collect information about campaign contributions and political expenditures of would-be contractors before awarding any federal contract. On April 26, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell joined Senators Collins, Portman, and 24 colleagues in sending a letter to the White House critical of the policy that would apparently make information about political contributions a part of every federal contract offer. The letter emphasizes that taxpayers should receive the best value for federal contracts and thus government procurements must be conducted in a manner that ensures a fair process, entirely free from politics.

Senators Collins and Portman authored a bi-partisan letter to the President on May 12 which raised concerns about injecting politics into the contracting process. The letter went on to say, “Considering that the acquisition workforce is already straining to adequately manage and oversee federal contracts, the draft Executive Order may create new, unnecessary burdens for these officials.”

In May, Senators Collins and Portman introduced the “Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of 2011” which reaffirms the fundamental principle that federal contracts should be awarded free from political considerations and be based on the best value to the taxpayers. (More on the bill is available here.)

“The President’s proposed policy would give the appearance that federal government contracts are related to political contributions,” said Senator Collins. “Our amendment would keep politics out of the bid process at the Department of Defense. I will continue to press for legislation that would apply this standard across the agencies.

“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? It is unfathomable why this Administration would consider a move that would inject politics into the process, or create a perception that politics is something to be considered in selecting the winners and losers among businesses vying for federal contracts,” Senator Collins continued.

“Politics has no place in the award of any federal contract,” said Senator Portman. “The President should abandon this ill-conceived Executive Order immediately. Our amendment would ensure that Defense Department contracting decisions are made based on national security interests and value to taxpayers, not politics.”