Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, said Tuesday he opposes a White House plan that would require federal contractors to disclose their political contributions as a condition for winning government business.
The revelation puts the Southern Maryland lawmaker at odds with a White House proposal drafted last month that would require contractors to disclose third-party political contributions exceeding $5,000 a year. The proposal has not been formally released, but it has already faced harsh criticism from the business lobby and some Republican lawmakers.
"I don't think it ought to be a requirement," Hoyer said.
"You know, I think the issue on contracting ought to be on the merits of the contractor's application and bid and capabilities," he said. "I think the other aspects are, frankly -- I think there is some serious questions as to what implications there are if somehow we consider political contributions in the context of awarding contracts."
Millions of dollars of corporate money flowed into the 2010 election – much of it never disclosed – after a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year struck down a prohibition on corporations and unions funding certain types of political advertising. Some Democrats are calling for more disclosure of those contributions as next year's presidential election nears.
But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several Republican lawmakers have countered that the White House proposal could discourage companies that contribute to GOP candidates from seeking work under a Democratic administration.
Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, scheduled a hearing on the White House proposal Thursday. Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings is the top-ranking Democrat on that committee.
Cummings sent a letter to Issa Tuesday arguing that the witnesses set to testify at the hearing "appear to represent only one side of the debate." The witnesses who have confirmed to speak at the hearing include three representatives of the contracting industry, a law professor who has written that the White House plan would "deeply politicize the contracting process," and a Washington lawyer who advises contractors on federal procurement laws.
Cummings invited Fred Wertheimer, president of government watchdog group Democracy 21, to appear at the hearing.
"I am concerned that such an unbalanced approach would not provide members an accurate or complete understanding of this issue," Cummings wrote in the letter.