Asked to Disclose Secret Corporate Donors, Chamber Calls for War

Editorial Boards across the country agree: Taxpayers have a right to know what happens to their money, and whether or not government contractors are paying-to-play. 

Yet the U.S. Chamber considers these basic notions of disclosure and transparency as threatening to democracy as Col. Moammar Gadhafi, and they are “not going to tolerate it.”  

Corporate transparency – and a recently proposed executive order that would require government contractors to disclose their political contributions - threatens the U.S. Chamber’s existence as “an accomplished conduit for secret donors” and its ability to wield corporate influence over all branches of government. The Chamber’s fight against financial disclosure reform has always been their top priority and now it is using every weapon in its arsenal to squash the possible executive order.  As the debate unfolds, editorial boards around the country explain why corporate transparency and accountability is necessary and why the Chamber is wrong on this one.

Baltimore Sun: White House “Transparency Requirements…Actually Protect Against Pay-to-Play by Forcing Contractors to Reveal Their Donations.” In May 2011, the Baltimore Sun editorial board wrote, “In reality, transparency requirements like those proposed by the White House actually protect against pay-to-play by forcing contractors to reveal their donations…Republicans are far more likely to be the chief beneficiaries of backdoor corporate largesse. That's why the executive order is causing such a fuss with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its ilk. But that doesn't make secret political donations right. If Republicans want to level the playing field, let them pass a campaign finance reform law in Congress that covers not just federal contractors but all who give to third-party groups, including unions and other traditional Democratic allies…President Obama needs to safeguard the 2012 election and sign the executive order.” [Editorial, Baltimore Sun, 5/9/11]

LA Times: “Disclosure is the Solution, Not the Problem.” In May 2011, the Los Angeles Times editorial board wrote, “Transparency -- and scrutiny from the political opposition -- would provide a check on any abuses. Disclosure is the solution, not the problem. Government contractors can argue that they are being singled out. The easy remedy for that is to require that all contributions to all groups that engage in political activities be made public. Requiring disclosure by contractors is a first step, but it doesn't have to be the last.” [Editorial, LA Times, 5/5/2011]

NY Times: “U.S. Chamber…Accomplished Conduit for Secret Donors…Crying Foul About Executive Order…Needed to Combat Pay-to-Play Campaign Abuses.” In May 2011, the New York Times editorial board wrote, “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an accomplished conduit for secret donors, is crying foul about the proposed executive order. But clearly the measure is needed to combat pay-to-play campaign abuses. Democrats came close to passing a new disclosure law last year, but were stopped when Senate Republicans -- who will benefit the most from stealth corporate donations -- stood fast. The prospects with this Congress are, of course, far worse, and the checkbooks are already out. Mr. Obama vowed to rein in campaign abuses. Now is not the time for him to flinch before noisy threats from the chamber and other deep-pocketed players.” [Editorial, New York Times, 5/1/11]

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  Current Practice of Contractors’ Political Donations “Should Not Occur in a Democracy… Obama Should Issue the Necessary Executive Order Now.” In April 2011, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette editorial board wrote, “President Barack Obama and Congress need to take action to inform Americans of federal contractors' contributions to political candidates… Many companies and individuals who are paid by the federal government for goods and services are supported, in effect, through these contracts by the taxpayers. Many of the contractors lobby federal officials, including congressmen to get this work, sometimes by making large campaign contributions…It doesn't take magic to understand that this practice, in a way, uses public money to finance political campaigns, money recycled through the hands of the contractors. This should not occur in a democracy, but it does…Mr. Obama should issue the necessary executive order now.”  [Editorial, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/28/11]

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: U.S. Chamber “Will Not Tolerate” Disclosure Order, Will “Fight the Proposal With the Same Force” as U.S. Military Action in Libya In April 2011, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted the U.S. Chamber’s opposition to the disclosure requirements: “Indicating how important these contributions from contractors are, a chamber executive said Tuesday that the organization was "not going to tolerate" such action by the White House. He said the chamber would fight the proposal with the same force the U.S. military is using against Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Libya.”   [Editorial, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/28/11];

The Blade (Toledo, OH): “Taxpayers Have a Right to Know Who is Paying Whom to Do What With Their Money.” In April 2011, the Blade’s editorial board wrote, “President Obama is considering an executive order that would require would-be federal contractors to disclose all direct and indirect political spending of more than $5,000. Predictably, a Chamber executive said this week that the organization was ‘not going to tolerate’ such action. He said the Chamber would fight the proposal with the same force the U.S. military is using in Libya. This political skirmish reflects the financial relationship between members of Congress and donor-contractors. Taxpayers have a right to know who is paying whom to do what with their money, especially as another round of elections is just over the horizon.” [Editorial, Blade (Toledo, OH), 4/28/11]]

Rob Weissman, Public Citizen: “Chamber Draws Exactly the Wrong Conclusion…We Need – at a Bare Minimum – Openness and Disclosure of Contractors’ Campaign Spending.” In May 2011, Public Citizen President Rob Weissman said, “The U.S. Chamber is of course no stranger to using exaggerated rhetoric to advance its positions. But its opposition to the Executive Order is astounding even by the standards of the Chamber…the Chamber draws exactly the wrong conclusion. To protect our tax dollars, we need -- at a bare minimum -- openness and disclosure of contractors' campaign spending. We can't afford and should not tolerate secret spending accounts that invite government contracting corruption.” [Op-Ed, Alternet, 5/9/11]

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