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Senators on Armed Services Committee Should Oppose an Anti-Transparency Measure

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They’re at it again. Members of Congress who give lip service to transparency and accountability go out of their way to keep political spending in the dark. First they block the DISCLOSE Act, a reasonable—if not perfect—response to the Supreme Court’s devastating Citizens United decision. This time, Senators Collins and Portman are the culprits behind an attempt to amend the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (S. 981) in a way that would prevent potential federal contractors from disclosing political expenditures.

Senators Collins and Portman are taking this step in response to a draft Executive Order that would impose transparency on the federal contracting system. Whether their point is to bully the President into not issuing the EO or to protect their campaign contributors if he does, the result is still the same: Millions of dollars of political spending by military contractors will be known to elected officials, but not to the public.

Among the myriad dire consequences of the Citizens United decision, among the most worrisome is the tool lobbyists now have to threaten to use secret campaign spending against members who do not do their bidding. The draft Executive Order is an effort to address this problem. We urge members of the Armed Services Committee to defeat this amendment and take a stand against secrecy and pay to play rules that are anathema to a transparent and accountable system of federal contracting.