Obama accused of edging toward 'enemies list' in two business, policy disputes

Draft executive order on disclosures, NLRB and Boeing feud draw criticism

Published: Wednesday, May 11 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

President Barack Obama has been compared to former presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, but recent business policies advocated by his administration have earned him a comparison to yet another president — Richard Nixon.

A recent draft of an executive order regarding political contributions and government contracts is making the rounds on Capitol Hill, drawing condemnation from some and comparisons to Nixons infamous enemies list.

According to the draft order, all companies bidding for a government contract would be required to disclose contributions made by the business and its directors or officers to federal candidates, parties or party committees. Businesses would also be required to disclose contributions made to third party entities that may engage in political speech.

This is a change from the current policy that prohibits federal contractors from making certain contributions during the negotiations for and performance of a contract.

The Wall Street Journal reports the draft executive order would not apply to recipients of federal grants or to federal employee unions.

As Andrew Malcolm of the L.A. Times facetiously asks, What could possibly go wrong with that kind of information in a nonpartisan place like Washington?

In a Forbes blog, writer Charles Kadlec said if Obama were to sign the order, he would override the democratic process and justify disclosures in the name of transparency.

But in this case, transparency can easily morph into tyranny, Kadlec writes. Linking government contracts and political giving opens the door for the president to use the trillions of dollars in federal expenditures to punish his opponents and to reward those who contribute to his campaign and the campaigns of other Democratic candidates.

This information could easily be used to form a Nixonian enemies list on steroids, Sean Parnell, President of the Center for Competitive Politics, tells Kadlec.

According to the Center for Competitive Politics, the executive order is an attempt to circumvent the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which stated the government could not prohibit companies, unions and advocacy groups from engaging in independent political speech.

Groups supporting the executive order include the Center for Media and Democracy, Citizen Works, Consumer Watchdog, Democracy for America, League of Women Voters of the United States, OMB Watch, SEIU and the Social Equity Group.

In a San Francisco Chronicle editorial, the paper argues the order is a small step toward correcting the outsized influence that wealthy individuals and corporations now have on our political process.

The White House defended the executive order, saying it is a draft that is moving through the standard review and feedback process. But a White House official also told The Hill the order will encourage transparency and accountability.

The president is committed to an overhaul of government contracting policies that promote accountability, transparency and competition, the official said. Taxpayers deserve to feel confident that federal contracting decisions are based on merit alone and are not influenced by political favoritism.

In a letter to the president, Republicans argue, No White House should be able to review your political party affiliation or the causes you support before deciding if you are worthy of a government contract.

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