President Obama's limited disclosure

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Opinion Zone,Christopher Taylor

President Obama is a big fan of the DISCLOSE act, which is an attempt to force donors to political campaigns and campaign commercials to reveal their identities. However, the bill as written specifically excludes certain groups - particularly unions - from disclosure, and the legislation failed to pass in even a Democrat-controlled congress. Now, President Obama is trying to implement portions of the bill anyway.

When congress failed to pass DISCLOSE, President Obama went to the Federal Elections Commission and tried to get them to implement it anyway by executive order. The FEC opposed this plan and that effort failed. Hans Spakovsky at Pajamas Media explains what the president is doing now:

An impeccable source has provided me with a copy of a draft Executive Order that the White House is apparently circulating for comments from several government agencies. Titled “Disclosure of Political Spending By Government Contractors,” it appears to be an attempt by the Obama administration to implement — by executive fiat — portions of the DISCLOSE Act.

Although federal law prohibits federal contractors from contributing to politicians, the attempted regulations require any such contributions to be itemized and reported. Why? Because the regulations are interested in private, personal donations rather than company funds.

The wording is a bit vague as well, requiring reporting of any funds donated which are "reasonably expected" to be used in political advertisement or campaigning.  Something that vague is just waiting to be abused by zealous regulators against political enemies.

Notably exempted from this regulation?

Federal employee unions that negotiate contracts for their members worth many times the value of some government contracts are not affected by this order. Neither are the recipients of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal grants.

In other words: unions and grant recipients can donate all they want without any reporting or examination of their private actions.  And that's the problem I have with this whole effort.

I am not opposed to private donors to politicians having to cough up their names, although it isn't a reasonable requirement by the federal government. A man's private convictions about a political campaign are just that - private.  However, the idea of a company being banned from contributing to a politician that is benefiting them but allowing the members of that company to do so privately seems like a pretty big loophole.

My guess is that the reason congress and the FEC refused to pass the DISCLOSE act is that very loophole; its lucrative and useful to politicians to allow companies to effectively contribute to them - in the name of private donations - in exchange for contracts and consideration.

My problem is that every instance of this legislation has been designed to exempt major Democrat contributors in a deliberate effort to intimidate and slow all contributions except to that party. If the original bill or these regulations were for all such contributions, I wouldn't have so much problem with it.  Its the exemptions that make this kind of regulation improper. Unless everyone is equally required to show full disclosure, then this is just a weapon against the president's enemies, and should be opposed.

 

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