April 8, 2012; Source: The Hill

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Obama White House announced its intentions to require federal contractors to disclose their political giving, as we noted in the NPQ Newswire here and here. This provoked some strong reactions, including some from nonprofit interests that might have viewed it as a threat to political free speech (or perhaps were concerned that the plan would capture the personal political donations of nonprofit leaders as well as for-profits in the federal contracting game).

Apparently, the draft executive order that the White House floated a year ago is nowhere to be found. The Hill reports that the White House “has all but abandoned its push to require federal contractors to disclose their political donations.” Public Citizen’s Craig Holman noted that President Obama didn’t even mention the issue in his State of the Union speech.

Although the executive order may be history for the moment, the White House might have to take a stand on donor transparency thanks to the DISCLOSE Act, pushed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), which “would force corporations, including government contractors, to reveal all political contributions above $10,000 and take public credit for the political ads they sponsor.” Both Van Hollen and Whitehouse know that the Republican Congress will kill their bills, making the Obama administration’s position on executive orders important. With no bill able to get through Congress, an executive order could bypass some of the Congressional stalemate.

Will the President take a stand for donor disclose to 501(c)(4)s, at least by federal contractors, by issuing an executive order? Or have the November elections placed campaign finance reform onto the backburner of public policymaking yet again?—Rick Cohen