March 6, 2015

Barely One-Fourth of the Largest Government Contractors Disclose Contributions to Outside Electioneering Groups, Public Citizen Analysis Shows

Findings Reinforce Call for Obama to Issue Executive Order Requiring Contractors to Disclose Political Spending

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Just 27 percent of the 15 largest publicly traded federal contractors fully disclose the details of contributions they make to nonprofit groups and trade associations that could be used for electioneering expenditures, an analysis (PDF) released today by Public Citizen shows. These businesses collectively were due $129.1 billion in federal payments in fiscal year 2013.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which paved the way for corporations and other outside entities to spend unlimited funds to influence elections, was justified in part on the expectation that disclosure would permit citizens to be able to “see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.”

The Obama administration should issue an executive order requiring government contractors to reveal their contributions to influence elections, Public Citizen said. Public Citizen and more than 50 groups sent a letter this week to Obama urging him to issue such an order.

For its analysis, Public Citizen examined the voluntary political disclosure policies of the 15 largest publicly traded federal contractors. (Data on disclosure policies were found in the 2014 Center for Political Accountability-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability. The CPA-Zicklin index measures the transparency policies of the 300 largest publicly traded companies in the S&P 500.)

“This analysis shows two things,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “First, a number of large contractors do voluntarily disclose the nonprofits and trade associations they are funding, and we haven’t heard of cataclysmic results visiting them as a result. Second, and more importantly, most contractors do not disclose, and that represents an egregious break from the expectation of disclosure upon which the Supreme Court premised its decision in Citizens United.”

Read the analysis (PDF).

View Public Citizen's petition calling for an executive order requiring government contractors to disclosure their political spending.