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Public Citizen to Obama: Move Ahead With Pay-to-Play Executive Order

April 27, 2011 

Public Citizen to Obama: Move Ahead With Pay-to-Play Executive Order

Statement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen

As jury selection moves forward today in the retrial of impeached Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was found guilty of selling government contracts to campaign contributors, the case highlights the folly of allegations in Washington, D.C., by Republican members of Congress that transparency of the government contracting process is simply a partisan, political ploy by the White House.

Pay-to-play is the all-too-common practice of a business entity making campaign contributions or expenditures to public officials with the hope of gaining a lucrative government contract. As we have seen in Illinois, pay-to-play can be a source of very real corruption for both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. At the very least, pay-to-play is devastating to the integrity of any government when the public believes that contracts are being awarded based on campaign money.

President Barack Obama’s proposed pay-to-play executive order quite simply requires that federal contractors report their campaign contributions and expenditures for all to see, so that the public can judge whether contracts are going just to the big-spending political players.

Transparency in government contracting is not a novel idea. More than a dozen states have addressed this perception of pay-to-play politics by requiring disclosure of campaign money by government contractors. Another eight states and the Securities and Exchange Commission have gone a step further and imposed a restriction or ban on campaign giving altogether by government contractors to assure the public that contracts are being awarded based on merit, not campaign money.

The only reason to oppose this is if you’re a massive corporation that wants to buy sweetheart government contracts without the public finding out.

Sign the executive order into law, Mr. President. Full disclosure of money in politics by those who are bidding for government contracts is something for which some lawmakers may protest but the people will thank you.

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.