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Federal Contractors Should Disclose Political Spending

A new Brennan Center analysis argues that President Obama should mandate disclosure of political spending by government contractors.

March 30, 2015

Ahead of the 2016 election entering full swing, President Obama should mandate disclosure of political spending by government contractors to boost public confidence in government, argues a new Brennan Center analysis issued today.

Since 2010’s Citizens United decision, dark money spending — by groups that conceal their donations from the public — has risen dramatically. The trend raises troubling questions about whether the public can effectively assess the influence of big donors on individual candidates’ policy positions. When it comes to those seeking government contracts, the opportunity for political corruption is even greater and could cost taxpayers millions, according to Requiring Government Contractors to Disclose Political Spending.

In fiscal year 2014, the federal government spent approximately $460 billion on private sector contractors, almost 40 percent of which went to just 25 companies. With so much money at play, the impetus to court politicians with power over those contracts is obvious – as is the American public’s interest in transparency.

“Whether pay-to-play activity is rampant in federal contracting today is unclear because so much federal election spending remains secret,” wrote authors Brent Ferguson, Lawrence Norden, and Daniel Weiner, “Without disclosure, such conduct will remain immune from routine public scrutiny – at least until the next major scandal comes to light. President Obama should use his authority to mandate federal contractors disclose their election spending, in order to ensure taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollars, and head off any potential improprieties that could create opportunities for corruption.”

The authors stress that an Executive Order must be issued soon if it is to be implemented before the 2016 election. More than 50 rallies are planned throughout the country on April 2, calling for President Obama to issue the executive order.

Read the full analysisRequiring Government Contractors to Disclose Political Spending.

Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on money in politics.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292–8381 or