GOP Blasts Plan For More Political Money Disclosure
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Big oil wasn't the only target for lawmakers yesterday. Over on the House side, Republicans blasted an Obama administration proposal for more disclosure of political money. White House officials are drafting an executive order that would mandate disclosure from prospective government contractors.
As NPR's Peter Overby reports, Republicans say that is an invitation to corruption.
PETER OVERBY: GOP members competed for words to express their outrage.
Darrell Issa of California chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
DARRELL ISSA: We're now talking about Chicago hardball politics.
OVERBY: Or maybe it's naked political power. That's how Steve Chabot of Ohio put it.
STEVE CHABOT: I think it's shameful, I think it's disgusting, I think it's despicable, I think it's outrageous.
OVERBY: Tim Walberg, from Michigan, said there's such a thing as too much disclosure of political money.
TIM WALBERG: To put sunlight on, as someone once said, inappropriately on the private sector in ways like this is an excessive amount of sunlight that can bring cancer.
OVERBY: And North Carolinian Renee Ellmers dismissed the idea that the executive order on disclosure would instill trust in government.
RENEE ELLMERS: I don't see how that happens with this. And I think that the American people are so wonderfully filled with common sense that they're going to come up with the same conclusion that I have right now.
OVERBY: One White House official was there to catch all the flak - Daniel Gordon, the administration's chief procurement officer. The administration had tried not to send anyone, but Republicans insisted. So Gordon listened a lot and he rejected Republican assertions that disclosure would just let the Obama team pick government contractors who support the president. He said the disclosures of where a contractor spends political money wouldn't factor into the decision making, and in fact contractors already have to reveal their lobbying activity.
DANIEL GORDON: It is not taken into account in the selection of contractors, but it's required to be submitted and it is publicly available.
OVERBY: The point of the executive order is to uncover at least some of the millions of dollars that new outside-money groups raise and spend on attack ads. A broad disclosure bill failed in Congress last year. It appears that a significant amount of the undisclosed money comes from corporations.
Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley defended the administration's disclosure strategy.
BRUCE BRALEY: I'm confused by the people who come to this hearing and claim about the threat to the right of free speech and the threat to our democracy, when in fact it's the unlimited amount of secret money coming into elections that's the biggest threat to democracy we face today.
OVERBY: And earlier at the White House, administration spokesman Jay Carney defended the disclosure idea.
JAMES CARNEY: I'm not sure when it became a bad word, or a bad idea. Disclosure used to be something that Republicans supported very much. And I think that the American people support it.
OVERBY: Carney has said repeatedly the executive order is in the works, but there's no timetable for issuing it.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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