Yesterday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted, in essence, to sanction the practice of secret “pay-to-play” in the awarding of government contracts. With only Senator Tester recording his opposition, the committee voted out a bill that would ban federal agencies from collecting or disclosing any information about the political expenditures of federal contractors.
Turning logic on its head, the Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of 2011 embodies the theory that maintaining the secrecy of dark money political contributions made by those seeking huge federal contracts somehow protects the integrity of the contracting process. I guess the lessons of Justice Brandeis that sunlight is the best disinfectant were lost on supporters of the bill.
Too add to the absurdity of the vote, the bill is a response to a phantom. The bill blocks disclosure that would result from an Executive Order mandating transparency by federal contractors. An Executive Order that was never issued. Ever fearful of disclosure, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Independent Business and their ilk flexed their muscles to preempt any transparency of dark money that has resulted from the Citizens United case.
This bill would be funny if it weren’t so scary, but sanctioning secrecy in our democracy is no laughing matter. If this bill makes its way to the Senate floor, we hope Senators see that rather than keeping politics out of the federal contracting process, this bill will keep corruption in it.