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AIA was taken aback when a draft executive order came to light that would negatively impact all government contractors. Described by the administration as a tool to inject greater transparency and accountability into the contracting process, the draft order would require that companies bidding for government work “disclose certain political contributions and expenditures . . . made within the two years prior to submission of their offer.”
If promulgated, our greatest concern is that the order would politicize the government contracting process. It is unclear how the information would be used by a contracting officer in the source-selection process, but it does create the possibility that donations to a particular party or candidate would be considered during contract evaluations. This might also create the wholly inappropriate premise that winning federal contracts is based on which political parties and candidates were supported by individuals employed by government contractors.
The draft order goes well beyond current law barring government contractors from making “any contribution of money or other things of value . . . to any political party, committee or candidate for public office” from corporate funds. At the extreme, knowledge of political contributions could be used as a de facto litmus test on which to base contract award decisions. The introduction of that principle would undermine a contracting system that, even with its existing quirks, staunchly relies on judgments by contracting officers that are based on best value to the taxpayer.
While AIA has supported the administration’s efforts to incorporate greater transparency and accountability into government contracting, we oppose any edicts that infringe upon the rights of one segment of the corporate citizenry and would potentially taint the contracting process. AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey signed a letter to President Obama May 5 and testified May 12 before a joint hearing of the House Small Business and Government Reform and Oversight Committees, outlining the serious harm such a policy would impose on the government contracting community. An opinion editorial in the Washington Business Journal also laid out the issues associated with the executive order.
AIA will continue to follow this issue and urge the administration not to implement the order.
AIA source: Susan.Tonner[at]aia-aerospace.org