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Public Citizen Condemns House Vote to Conceal Political Spending by Government Contractors

WASHINGTON - Shame on them. All but one Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to approve an unrelated amendment to the defense authorization bill offered by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) to keep campaign spending by major government contractors secret from the public. Public Citizen roundly condemns the ongoing march by congressional Republicans, and the 26 Democrats who joined them, to hide the corporate political slush funds that are overwhelming our elections ever since the disastrous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2010.

Precisely when disclosure is most important – at the time in which the Supreme Court has unleashed a flood of unlimited corporate money into our elections – we no longer have a meaningful disclosure law in place. Corporate money is flowing into our elections at record levels, but very little about the sources of this money is being disclosed to the public.

President Barack Obama is considering an executive order that would require companies vying for government contracts to disclose their campaign contributions and expenditures to help assure the public that lucrative government contracts are not awarded based on who gives the most. Such an executive order would be a limited but positive step toward transparency of money in politics. Transparency of campaign financing by government contractors is nothing new. At the federal level, contractors have been disclosing their political action committee contributions for decades, and more than a dozen states impose special campaign finance reporting requirements on state contractors. 

But the simple act of making public the amount of money government contractors are throwing at politicians who help award those contracts is apparently still too much for congressional Republicans, many of whom are the primary beneficiaries of secret corporate slush funds and do not want the American public to know that.

As a result, in the dead of night, the House voted to approve the unrelated Cole rider to the defense authorization bill. So, while the politicians know which government contractors are financially supporting them, the public remains in the dark. Care to venture who will be rewarded with the next round of multimillion-dollar government contracts?


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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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