Wednesday April 27, 2011 | 09:08 AM

Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine are among a group of Republican senators attacking President Obama’s plan to require federal contractors to disclose campaign contributions as part of their efforts to win government work.

The Obama administration says the move would spur greater transparency and accountability in vetting contractors. But in a letter to the president spearheaded by Collins and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the GOP senators say that, instead, the executive order Obama is expected to sign “would make political considerations a part of every federal contract offer. We urge you not to sign” the executive order.
Last year, congressional Republicans blocked a Democratic-proposed campaign finance bill that would have prohibited federal contractors from making federal candidate or party campaign contributions at all.
Earlier this month, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that Obama was considering signing the executive order, noting it was still a work in progress, mandating contractors disclose contributions because taxpayers “deserve to know” how federal contractors “are spending their money…(and) how they’re spending in terms of political campaigns.
Carney said there was no political motivation behind the potential executive order, saying that Obama’s “goal is transparency and accountability. That’s the responsible thing to do when you’re handling taxpayer dollars.”
But the letter signed by a total of 27 GOP senators charges that the move would “require contractors to furnish, with each contract proposal, information about activities protected by the First Amendment, including political activities occurring years before any contract negotiations commence."
“We are concerned that the requirement to provide such information to every contracting agency as part of every contact proposal could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of individuals to contribute to the political causes or candidates of their choice,” the letter continued. “Political activity would obviously be chilled if prospective contractors have to fear that their livelihood could be threatened if the causes they support are disfavored by the administration.”
(Updated 11:30 a.m.: The draft executive order being contemplated by the president requires disclosure as part of the contracting process both of contributions directly to candidates or parties and to third-party entities that can be expected to make political "independent expenditures" or  "electioneering communications." Total annual contributions must exceed $5,000 to come under the disclosure requirement.)

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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