Don Stewart (McConnell) 202-224-2979
E.R. Anderson (Collins) 202-224-4751
Jim Jeffries (Alexander) 202-224-7154
Christine Mangi (Portman) 202-590-7431
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rob Portman (R-OH) today introduced legislation to prohibit federal agencies from collecting or using information about political contributions made by small, family-owned businesses or larger companies that wish to do business with the federal government.
Senator Collins is the Ranking Republican on the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs which oversees federal contracting.
On the House side, Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA), Tom Cole (R-OK), and Sam Graves (R-MO) also introduced an identical measure today.
In April, the Administration drafted a proposed Executive Order requiring federal agencies to collect information about campaign contributions and political expenditures of any business or individual bidding on a federal contract before awarding the contract. On April 26, Senator Collins and 26 colleagues sent a letter to the White House critical of the policy that would require information about political contributions to be 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, free from politics. The Senators have not received a response to the letter.
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).
“The President’s draft order would insert politics into the federal procurement process,” said Senator Collins. “Our bill would keep politics out of federal contracting. What possible good can come from linking political information to a process which must be grounded solely and unequivocally on providing the very best value to American taxpayers? It is unfathomable that 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.”
Leader McConnell said: “Senator Collins’ efforts to prevent an executive order would prevent a brazen power grab, it would prevent the implementation of an executive action that amounts to no less than a political shakedown of American job creators. For the first time in history, the executive branch would be forcing all businesses, but not labor unions, to detail their political activities as a condition of bidding on a federal contract.
“This unprecedented demand to scour a company’s political activities would represent an outrageous and anti-Democratic abuse of executive branch authority clearly aimed at silencing or intimidating political adversaries’ speech through the government contracting system. Democracy is threatened when the federal government evaluates American businesses and their leaders on their political associations.
“No White House should be able to review your political party affiliation before deciding if you’re worthy of a government contract, and Americans should not have to worry about whether their political support will determine their ability to get or keep a federal contract or keep their job.
“I will continue to work with the supporters of this legislation, under the leadership of Senator Collins, to prevent this unprecedented power grab.”
“Whether the government hires a private company to do a job should be about that company’s ability to do the job well and at low cost to taxpayers – not whether that company has been on the right or wrong side in politics,” said Senator Alexander, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.
“The executive order would reverse years of efforts to get politics out of the contracting process,” said Senator Portman. “I hope the President will abandon this order that is being drafted behind closed doors, but we are taking no chances. This bill would ensure that contracting decisions are focused on getting the best value for American taxpayers, not on political considerations.”
In addition to Senator Collins, Minority Leader McConnell, Rules Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight Ranking Member Rob Portman, other cosponsors include: Republican Whip Jon Kyl, Senators Scott Brown, Ron Johnson, Jerry Moran, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi, John Cornyn, Richard Burr, Johnny Isakson, David Vitter, John Thune, John Barrasso, Roger Wicker, Mike Johanns, Dan Coats, and Kelly Ayotte.
The text of the bill is linked here.
A link to information on the House bill can be found here.