This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) that would prohibit federal agencies from requiring a company seeking a federal contract to disclose political contributions as a condition of being considered for that contract. This amendment was offered to legislation authorizing annual funding for Homeland Security Department programs.
President Obama had been considering issuing an executive order that would require companies to disclose campaign donations as a condition for receiving government contracts. Republicans strongly opposed such a regulation, and this amendment sought to preemptively block its implementation.
Cole urged support for his amendment: “…In April, a draft executive order was circulated that would force companies as a condition of applying for a Federal contract to disclose all Federal campaign contributions. In my view, if implemented, this executive order would lead to a significant politicalization of the federal procurement process. Instead of a company being evaluated and judged on its merits, their past work experience, their ability to complete the government contract in question, this executive order would introduce the potential that they would be evaluated politically as opposed to professionally. It's never a good idea…in my view, to mix politics with contracting. My amendment would prevent the President from implementing the proposed disclosure requirements.”
Rep. David Price (D-NC) opposed the amendment: “The amendment before us is a legislative attempt to circumvent a draft Executive order which would provide for increased disclosure of the political contributions of government contractors. The draft Executive order being developed by the Obama administration would require federal contractors to disclose more information about their political contributions than they currently provide. Particularly, those contributions given to third-party entities. Some have said they oppose this effort because additional information could be used nefariously to create some kind of enemies list. In other words, they argue that companies should not disclose more information because people in power could misuse that information to retaliate against them. I just think there are fundamental problems with this premise. Under this logic, all campaign disclosures would be bad, not just the new ones. Government contractors already disclose contributions and expenditures by their PACs and those who contribute to them. Contributions by the officers and directors of government contractors are also required to be disclosed. Should we eliminate those provisions, too? Of course not. The information is required to be provided already in law, and the Executive order that the amendment would circumvent simply enhances the quality of that information.”
The House agreed to Cole’s amendment by a vote of 252-170. Voting “yea” were 232 Republicans and 20 Democrats. 168 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 2 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would prohibit federal agencies from requiring a company seeking a federal contract to disclose political contributions as a condition of being considered for that contract. In order for this amendment to become law, however, it would have to pass the Senate.