For Immediate Release
Advocates Rally for Executive Order on Disclosure
Call on President Obama to Require Disclosure of Political Spending by Federal Contractors and MA Legislature to fine-tune Massachusetts Disclosure Law
WASHINGTON - Concerned citizens and campaign finance reform advocates held a rally today marking the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision, which greatly expanded the amount of money that can be donated to federal politicians. The rally is part of a nationwide effort to call on President Obama to issue an executive order requiring disclosure of election contributions made by federal contractors. 60 similar events were held in 30 states to amplify the call.
“With a stroke of his pen, President Obama can shine a light on potential conflicts of interest and require government contractors to disclose their political spending,” said Pam Wilmot Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts, which hosted the event. “With that order, he can help ensure that politicians aren’t handing out contracts and favors in exchange for campaign cash.”
In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama decried secret money in elections, saying he wanted to see a “better politics,” where we “spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter.
“Over the past several years, our democracy has been buried under a perfect storm of big money, corporate money, and hidden money,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s Legislative Director. “But without waiting for Congress or anyone else, President Obama can lift one cloud if he issues an Executive Order requiring more transparency from companies doing business with our tax dollars.”
Earlier this month, more than 50 organizations, including Common Cause and U.S PIRG, wrote a letter urging the President to sign an order. Since then, more than 500,000 Americans have signed petitions calling for immediate action.
The impact of such an order could be huge, according to advocates. An analysis by Public Citizen of the 15 largest federal contractors, which received $129 billion in contracts in 2013 alone, found that only 27 percent fully disclose their political expenditures. And an analysis by Common Cause found that PAC spending by the top five corporate recipients of federal contracts – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman – nearly tripled in the last decade, from $6.8 million in 2004 to $17.7 million in 2014.
“If companies are raking in such huge amounts of money from our tax dollars, don’t we at least deserve to know how they’re trying to influence the political process that directs all that business their way?” asked Cheryl Clyburn Crawford Executive Director of MassVOTE.
Advocates also called for legislation at both the state and federal level to end all dark money. In Congress, the federal Disclose Act, and new legislation to restrict the coordination between super PACs and the candidates they support, are a long-shot for passage, they noted. But here in Massachusetts, the legislature took a major step towards transparency with a ground-breaking disclosure bill passed in July, 2014. As a result, there was much more timely information available to voters about super PACs and shadowy 501-c4 organizations spending money in the most recent Massachusetts elections. But there are still a few loopholes left to close, and advocates are hopeful that the legislature will address them this year.
“Regardless of the issue involved– health care, climate change, economic opportunity, etc. – the dominance of wealthy special interests prevents our government from acting in the public interest far too often,” added Wilmot. “Shining a light on big money in politics is just one critical step in our shared task of resuscitating our democracy.”
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.