"Total Transparency": Rep. Graves Pushes Falsehood About Draft Executive Order

May 13, 2011 9:45 am ET — Brian Powell

Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) House Oversight Committee and Rep. Sam Graves' (R-MO) Small Business Committee held a joint hearing yesterday to investigate a draft executive order being prepared by the Obama administration that would require greater disclosure from government contractors regarding their political contributions.

Throughout the hearing, Republicans who oppose the draft executive order parroted a flatly false argument that full transparency already exists regarding contractors chosen by the government. Graves argued that there is no need for this order, because all the information about a contractor's political contributions obtained through this order is already available after his bid is accepted.

GRAVES: Can't you get that information? Can you get that information - can the public get that information? Once you've awarded a contract to a company, can they get that information and find out - ok, this company just got a contract for X number of dollars from the federal government. I want to see what it is, who they gave to, and, uh, and what organization, how much, whatever. Can they get that information? [...]

The fact of the matter is, it is available. It is fully available. And so if a company gets a contract from the federal government, you can go look and see. Total transparency.


Unfortunately for Graves and other Republicans, the transparency claim is not true. The Seattle Times explains:

Under the proposed order, all companies bidding for federal contracts would be required to disclose money spent on political-campaign efforts, including dollars forwarded through such associations as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other private groups.

Election spending by such organizations soared to new heights in 2010, thanks in part to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations and unions to make direct political expenditures. The majority opinion endorsed disclosure of the new political spending, but many groups have formed as nonprofits, which do not have to reveal funding sources.

Much of the information collected through the order is publicly available — making Issa's claim that this order is part of some "Nixonian" plot to punish political enemies absurd — but not all of it, contrary to Graves' statement.