Rep. Issa Entirely Fabricates Union Exemption To Transparency Order

May 12, 2011 5:44 pm ET — Matt Gertz

During today's joint hearing of the House Oversight and Small Business Committees into a draft executive order that would require federal contractors to provide expanded transparency with regard to their political donations, Republican members invented an exemption to the order for labor unions. Republicans used this purported immunity to decry the draft order as a political attack by the Obama administration.

Here's Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA):

ISSA: We can only deal with what fortuitously became available to us. It exempts unions, which do have a limited amount of contracts and a great many grants to the federal government. We clearly saw that as a deliberate effort. And if it is draft legislation, how would you feel about exempting anyone who is a contractor to the government?


Issa returned to this point several times over the course of the hearing, using it as a cudgel to claim that the Obama administration is attempting to punish its political enemies while protecting its political allies.

In fact, the draft executive order provides no such exception for unions. It states that "every contracting department and agency shall require all entities submitting offers for federal contracts to disclose certain political contributions and expenditures they have made [emphasis added]." Some unions do submit offers for federal contracts. Thus, there is no union "exemption" — as the Tribune Washington bureau reported, this means that the order, if implemented, "would affect some unions with federal contracts to provide services, such as worker training."

The Sunlight Foundation gives one such example — the AFL-CIO, which "received small contracts from the Department of Labor as recently as last year." According to the Foundation: lists two purchase orders from 2010 for contracts with the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute. The contracts were with the Department of Labor and Department of Transportation. The draft order does not distinguish between types of contracts, thus any future contract with the AFL-CIO would trigger the same disclosure requirements applied to corporations with contracts.

Thus, under the order, the AFL-CIO, a major funder of Democratic political efforts, would be subject to the same disclosure requirements as any other federal contractor, including the corporate interests the Republicans are determined to protect.