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130 Lawmakers Call on President to Require Transparency in Political Spending

June 23, 2015

130 Lawmakers Call on President to Require Transparency in Political Spending

Members of House and Senate Send Letters to White House Asking for an Executive Order Requiring Federal Contractors to Disclose Their Political Spending

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, both chambers of Congress sent strong letters to the president asking him to finalize an executive order requiring those who receive federal contracts to fully disclose their political activities.

Currently, corporations can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on elections with no public knowledge or accountability. More than 40 percent of the outside expenditures in the 2014 elections were made by groups that did not fully disclose their donors.

“The president has spoken often about the dark money trend and the problems it causes for our democracy,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “These important letters call on him to act.”

The U.S. House of Representatives letter (PDF), led by U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.), states: “Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is spent and you have the power to ensure that the American people can obtain this information. With public funds come public responsibilities, and any company receiving federal tax dollars should be required by Executive Order to fully disclose their political spending in a timely and accessible manner.”

The U.S. Senate letter (PDF), led by U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I), states: “Political spending by government contractors is a problem you can address without congressional authorization. You would be on solid legal ground if you were to issue an executive order requiring disclosure of political spending by entities that have been awarded government contracts and their senior leadership. The order could also take into account transfers to and from shell corporations and non-profits, to prevent evading disclosure requirements.”

“Dark money in our elections is a problem no matter where it comes from,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “But undisclosed spending is especially troubling when it comes from government contractors. Secret contractor spending implies a pay-to-play culture in which the public cannot discern whether awards are going to those best able to play the political money game, or to those offering the most high-quality product or service.”

The lawmakers’ support for an executive order comes as citizen support increases nationwide. In April, Public Citizen and other groups rallied outside the White House and presented more than half a million petition signatures calling on President Obama to issue such an order. On that same day, activists in 30 states held events calling for an executive order. In addition, activists flooded the White House telephone lines with 6,000 calls in one day demanding an executive order.

The list of U.S. Senate letter signers includes: U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Udall (D-N.M), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I).