April 2, 2015
Citizens Nationwide Urge Obama to Require Government Contractors to Disclose Political Spending; More Than Half a Million Signatures Delivered to White House
Activists in 30 States Send Message: An Executive Order Would Shine Light on Corporate Corruption and End Pay-to-Play
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives from an array of public interest organizations delivered more than 550,000 petition signatures to the White House today, calling on President Barack Obama to curb the pernicious influence of money in politics by issuing an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending.
Using a 15-foot inflatable flashlight as a prop to highlight the need to shine a light on dark money, the groups urged Obama to act immediately. They joined activists participating in nearly 60 events in 30 states to highlight the fact that Obama can single-handedly help curb Big Money dominance in elections, which he himself deemed a problem in his latest State of the Union address.
Events ranged from a rally at a street festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a demonstration on a pier filled with beachgoers in Clearwater, Florida, to a peaceful vigil in Leesburg, Virginia, to student-led protests on California and Minnesota college campuses, to events featuring everyone from members of Congress to Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s.
Further showing momentum for action, more than 55 organizations have signed a letter calling on Obama to shine a light on political spending by government contractors.
“An executive order would be a real start toward a more completely transparent political system. It would help the public to feel confident in our elected representatives and head off further perceptions of pay-to-play corruption,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.
The support for an executive order shows that Americans are fed up with the current system, in which corporations that bid for government contracts do not have to disclose their campaign spending. This has led to a corrupt pay-to-play environment where government contractors can secretly funnel untold sums to help elect the very same lawmakers who are responsible for awarding government contracts. However, the solution does not require an act of Congress. Obama has the authority to fix the problem with the stroke of a pen.
“The fact that money plays an outsized role in our political system is no secret, but President Obama can sign an executive order to make our system just a little bit better – by requiring corporations that receive money from the federal government to disclose who they are financially supporting in Congress,” said Greg Moore, NAACP National Voter Fund executive director. “The NAACP, a founding member of the Democracy Initiative, wholeheartedly supports this action and is committed to a political system that enables us to elect better representatives, enact better public policy and achieve a better, more representative government.”
A March analysis conducted by Public Citizen found that 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. These contractors collectively were due $129.1 billion in federal payments in fiscal year 2013.
Additionally, a report released earlier this week by the Brennan Center lays out how and why Obama should mandate disclosure of political spending by government contractors. The analysis makes the case that an executive order from the president could ensure taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollars and head off any potential improprieties that could create opportunities for corruption.
“Americans deserve to know which corporations are trying to buy political influence. We deserve to be able to follow the money and call out corporations when they try to rig the system in their favor,” said Diallo Brooks, director of outreach and partner engagement at People For the American Way. “President Obama, please hear the voices of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are asking you to act.”
“Fossil fuel companies like Chevron are taking millions in taxpayer-backed federal contracts, and then turning around and secretively spending millions more to elect politicians who will let them pollute with impunity,” said Courtney Hight, director of Sierra Club’s Democracy Program. “By signing an executive order that brings more transparency to our political system, President Obama can take a huge step forward in breaking big oil’s stranglehold on our government and work toward protecting our democracy and our environment at the same time.”
“It is vital that the public sees where UPS, FedEx and Pitney Bowes – all with a hand in the government contracting till – are sending their corporate cash,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union. “We demand to know whose campaigns they are funding as they seek to weaken the public good, the public Postal Service. That will go a long way toward helping us to hold our elected representatives accountable.”
“Voters are rightly frustrated and disenchanted by the corrupting influence of money in America’s political system, and it is well past time to increase transparency and accountability in political spending,” said Michele Jawando, vice president of legal progress at the Center for American Progress. “By requiring that taxpayer-funded government contractors disclose all forms of political spending, taxpayers and businesses alike can be assured that federal contracts are being awarded solely based on merit rather than by wielding financial leverage.”
The events that took place today mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which further flooded elections with unprecedented amounts of money from corporations and the super-wealthy.
Find more information about the events.
View Public Citizen’s petition. Other groups gathering petition signatures included Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, CREDO Action, Daily Kos, Democracy For America, Democrats.com, EveryVoice, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Just Foreign Policy, MoveOn.org, People For the American Way, Progressives United, Sierra Club, USAction and U.S. PIRG.