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Menendez, Booker, Colleagues Ask POTUS to Require Disclosure of Political Spending by Federal Contractors

Government and Politics

December 6, 2022


Exposure of dark money spending would protect against ‘quid pro quo corruption’ in federal procurement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) today joined their colleagues in calling on President Biden to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending, including dark money expenditures, after they are awarded a federal government contract.  An effective disclosure system would shine a light on special interest influence and help increase Americans’ trust in government.

“It is paramount to shore up protections against dark money quid pro quo corruption and its appearance by requiring federal contractors to disclose whether and how much they have spent to support or oppose candidates who can influence the federal procurement process as lawmakers,” the Senators wrote in a letter to President Biden. “Such a requirement would also increase transparency and accountability in our elections, empowering citizens to discharge their responsibilities with accurate information.”

Federal contractors spend substantial sums in elections. The top ten federal contractors received $213.8 billion in federal revenue in 2020, and their corporate PACs spent $24.8 million in that election cycle. And in the years since the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision allowed unlimited dark money to pour into elections, contractors and big corporations have increasingly turned to clandestine electioneering.

“While such an executive order will not solve all the problems with secret political spending in our democracy, it would be a much-welcomed step in the right direction.  Corruption has no place in our democracy, and dark money is corrupting,” added the Senators.

A copy of the letter can be found below.

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending after they are awarded a federal government contract.  American taxpayers have a right to know whether and how government contractors are spending money to elect lawmakers who can influence the procurement and awarding of government contracts.

Citizens United unleashed a flood of unlimited corporate money in our democracy based on the false assumption that the public would be able to see who was behind the spending.  As we know, that disclosure regime never materialized, but the premise of the decision that anonymous political spending would be corrupting remained.  Nevertheless, corrupting “dark money” expenditures exploded, from less than $5 million in 2006, to more than $1 billion in 2020. This trend continues to grow.

This torrent of dark money drowns out voters’ voices.  Academic studies show that economic elites and business interests command huge influence on government policy, while regular people have little or none.  Politicians elected to federal office with the support of dark money are more likely to support legislation aligned with corporate interests.  And dark money forces just spent hundreds of millions of dollars for one party in the recent Senate elections.  Unsurprisingly, the American people’s trust in our government continues to erode.

The White House should not hesitate to cast a bright light on secret political spending and its corrupting effects wherever possible.  Federal contractors spend substantial sums in elections— the top 10 federal contractors received $213.8 billion in federal revenue in 2020, while just their political action committees (PACs) spent $24.8 million in that election cycle.  Corporate PACs as you know are minuscule spenders compared to the tsunami of dark money through SuperPACs and other devices that enable clandestine spending.  Given this fact, it is paramount to shore up protections against dark money quid pro quo corruption and its appearance by requiring federal contractors to disclose whether and how much they have spent to support or oppose candidates who can influence the federal procurement process as lawmakers.  Such a requirement would also increase transparency and accountability in our elections, empowering citizens to discharge their responsibilities with accurate information.

While such an executive order will not solve all the problems with secret political spending in our democracy, it would be a much-welcomed step in the right direction. Corruption has no place in our democracy, and dark money is corrupting. We urge that you expeditiously issue this executive order.