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River Cities' Reader - Issue 783 - July 21, 2011

River Cities' Reader - Issue 783 - July 21, 2011

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Published by: River Cities Reader on Jul 20, 2011
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River Cities’ Reader 
• Vol. 18 No. 783 • July 21 - August 3, 2011
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
Things we want you to know:
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River Cities’ Reader 
• Vol. 18 No. 783 • July 21 - August 3, 2011
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
uniforms. A landscaping firm would haveto list its checks to a liberal third-party group before applying to maintain anational park.Clearly, such rules could foster politicaldiscrimination. Obama would enable hisadministration to deliver literally billionsof dollars in government contracts to pro-Democrat businesses while denying billionsto pro-Republican firms.And when the GOP takes the WhiteHouse again, that administration couldturn around and practice the exact samekind of discrimination against Democrat-friendly contractors.And the favoritism would not necessarily be confined to contracting work. The entirefederal government would be made awareof private firms’ political affiliations. Otheragencies could use that information todetermine where and how to award billionsof dollars.Even the appearance of politicalfavoritism would be a problem.The Agriculture Department, forexample, might hire a company to upgrade30 regional offices. That firm may havebacked Obama’s campaign and otherDemocratic causes. It also could finishits work on time, under budget, and withelegant results. Nonetheless, a losing, pro-Republican bidder might cry foul – eventhough it lost to a truly superior bidder,picked by honest public servants with nopartisan axes to grind.When awarding contracts, federaldecision-makers should consider only one issue: the bidders’ merits. Officialsshould evaluate the price and quality of the products and services on offer, thesupplier’s performance under previouscontracts, and how closely each bid followsfederal contract rules.This proposal is generating bipartisanopposition. Connecticut independentSenator Joe Lieberman, who caucuses withDemocrats, and Missouri DemocraticSenator Claire McCaskill, who chairs theGovernment Contracting Subcommittee,have both publicly opposed the executiveorder. Twenty-seven Republicans senatorssigned a letter urging the president to scrapthis plan.Imposing campaign-disclosurerequirements on government contractorssets the table for a feast of patronage basednot on the content of each contractor’scharacter, but on the color of his PACmoney.
Thomas A. Schatz is president of Citizens Against Government Waste.
Transparency Measure Is Ripe for Abuse
by Thomas A. Schatz
T
he lowest qualified bid by the mostcompetent contestant traditionally wins the government contract.Unfortunately, the “Change” gang nowwants to fiddle with this decades-old,generally reliable formula.President Obama hopes to throw anotheritem onto the scale as bureaucrats weighbids: political donations. A draft executiveorder would instruct federal officials toconsider the political contributions of prospective government contractors. Whilethis move is being portrayed as a matter of increased transparency, it will actually fuelunintended consequences and indirectly overturn an important Supreme Courtdecision on free speech.Forcing companies to disclose politicalgifts supposedly will expose covert “pay to play” schemes and ensure that privateindustry does not unduly influenceWashington’s decisions when awardinglucrative contracts. Rather than depoliticizeprocurement, this practice would empowerpublic officials to scrutinize a particularcompany’s political philanthropy. TheObama administration’s supporters couldscore government deals while opponentsleave with empty pockets and a simplemessage: “If you want our checks, show usyours.”The executive order could transportsuch old-fashioned, Chicago-style wheelingand dealing from Lake Michigan to thePotomac.This executive order – drafted in April– requires contractors to disclose annualdonations of more than $5,000 that weremade in the past two years and paid topolitical candidates, parties, or independentpolitical groups. Directors, officers, andother top managers would have to declaretheir personal political contributions fromthe past two years – even if they were madewithout their employers’ knowledge orconsent.This order is in part designed to thwartlast year’s
Citizens United 
Supreme Courtdecision, which lifted certain restrictionson the donations corporations and laborunions can make to campaigns andindependent organizations.Congressional Democrats quickly triedto counteract that ruling by re-limitingthe third-party donations. But a House-approved bill sputtered in the Senate.Because the legislation will not be passed,Obama is trying to accomplish that samegoal through the executive order. A clothingcompany would have to reveal its donationsto a conservative advocacy not-for-profitbefore bidding to manufacture military 
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