No. 2 House Democrat against contractor disclosure

By LARRY MARGASAK | May 10, 2011 | 1:58 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The second-ranking House Democrat said Tuesday he opposes a White House proposal to require anyone seeking government contracts to disclose political contributions.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the party whip, told reporters that contractors should be chosen on the merits of their applications, their bids and their capabilities — not on their political donations.

President Barack Obama's disclosure order, drafted in April, has not yet been issued.

Hoyer is now on the same side as one of Obama's sharpest critics, Chairman Darrell Issa of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Issa has scheduled a hearing Thursday to hear from witnesses who believe the order would curb free speech and harm small businesses.

Hoyer told reporters, "It's not a requirement now. I don't think it ought to be a requirement. So I'm not in agreement with the administration on that issue."

Drafted April 13, Obama's proposal would require anyone submitting bids for government work to disclose political contributions and expenditures that exceeded $5,000 to a given recipient during a given year.

The total would include donations that officers, directors, affiliates and subsidiaries made to federal candidates and parties. It would cover donations to third party entities — if those entities would be expected to use the money for independent political expenditures.

A number of liberal Congress-watching groups are strongly in favor of the proposal, and have been urging the president to issue the order.

The director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew, has declined Issa's invitation to testify at Thursday's hearing. Issa, in a letter to Lew on Monday, asked him to reconsider and threatened to issue a subpoena to force his future appearance.

Lew wrote Issa last week that he was unable to testify because the draft order "is still moving through the standard review and feedback process."

Hoyer, in his weekly session with reporters, said, "I think there are some serious questions as to what implications there are if somehow we consider political contributions in the context of awarding contracts."

He said the plan would raise questions if a Democratic contributor failed to win a contract with a Republican administration — or vice versa.

The draft order said it addresses "the perception that political campaign spending provides enhanced access to or favoritism in the contracting business."

Issa, in his letter to Lew, complained that the plan did not order disclosure of union contributions, "because unions and political advocacy groups receive millions of taxpayer dollars through federal grants."