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Cole Discusses His Amendment to Keep Politics Out of Federal Contracting

May 26, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Tom Cole (OK-04) made the following remarks on the House floor in support of his amendment to prohibit federal agencies from imposing a requirement that companies applying for federal contracts disclose political contributions. Cole's amendment was considered in conjunction with H.R. 1540, the “National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.”

The amendment, which passed by a vote of 261-163, addresses a draft Executive Order by the Obama administration that would require companies to disclose political activity to be eligible to apply for federal contracts.

"Last month, a draft Executive Order was circulated that would require companies to disclose all federal campaign contributions as a condition for submitting a bid on a federal contract.

"If implemented, this Executive Order would effectively politicize the federal procurement process. Companies and their bids would run the risk of being judged on the basis of politics as opposed to their professional capabilities.

"The danger of that is obvious. It's never a good idea to mix politics and contracting. My amendment would prevent the president from implementing his proposed disclosure requirements. It's worth noting for the record, Congress actually considered something similar in the 111th Congress, the so-called Disclose Act, and chose not to pass that particular legislation. This is in effect a back-door effort to implement something that Congress has previously decided not to legislate on. It's worth noting that current laws would remain in effect. However, we do prevent the administration from taking that extra step and killing the First Amendment rights of companies and corporate executives.

"The information that this Executive Order would extract from companies is not necessary to evaluate any bid they've made. It's a political quest, not a quest for better information. It raises a legitimately political fear of retaliation. We've seen time and time again in history where politics have been linked to contracts. This is yet another effort to do it. I also dispute about whether or not it's appropriate for the executive branch to consider this in the first place. It's not the job of the executive branch to legislate. That's our job in this body. If we want to add additional requirements, we can do so. We chose requirements very much like this last year in a Congress controlled at both ends of the building by my friends on the other side of the aisle and did not pass it. I think this raises even more concerning fears.

"All I'm asking is that we leave the law as it is, the disclosure requirements as they are, and, frankly, keep the executive branch from engaging in fishing expeditions and potentially in punitive political activity against companies and individual who are simply exercising their First Amendment rights.

"If the information isn't necessary for the bid or the evaluation of the bid, then it's not necessary for the executive branch to have it and for us to run the risk that it might be misused. With that I would urge the adoption of the amendment and I'd yield back the balance of my time."