Top GOP oversight official Rep. Darrell Issa said in a May 9 letter that if a top Obama aide again declines to testify on a draft executive order requiring political disclosure from government contractors, Issa will be “required to consider the use of compulsory process” – a congressional subpoena.
If Issa subpoenas OMB director Jacob Lew to testify about the draft order, which Republicans warn could allow the administration to politicize the government contracting process, it would be the first time the GOP has subpoenaed the Obama White House since they obtained the authority in taking over the House in January.
A source close to Issa says he’s serious. “This will end one of three ways,” the source told The Daily Caller, “one, Lew will acquiesce and testify, two, they’ll negotiate a date in the near future when he will testify or three, they’ll subpoena him. I really think they’re serious.”
The draft executive order implements a provision in the “Disclose Act,” campaign spending legislation drafted in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that failed in Congress when Democrats controlled both chambers.
Leading campaign spending activists like Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 say the order is crucial to add transparency to the millions of dollars flowing in and out of Washington.
“The Executive Order also would facilitate disclosure and make it easier for citizens to know what government contractors are doing to influence federal elections by providing all of the relevant campaign finance information regarding a contractor in one centralized location,” Wertheimer said at a May 4 press conference, according to his prepared remarks.
But critics warn the new disclosure requirements could allow the Obama administration to punish companies that donate to groups that help Republicans win elections.
For instance, liberal-leaning Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine called the draft executive order “Orwellian,” as Issa notes in his letter.
All companies, including government contractors, are already required to disclose information about which political candidates they and their employees donate to.
At issue in the executive order is money donated to third-party political groups, which in the wake of the Citizens United decision can, in certain cases, be donated anonymously.
The decision opened up new avenues for political spending. President Obama called these new avenues a “threat to democracy” during the 2010 midterm elections, but since then one of his top aides left the White House to launch a group undertaking the exact type of activities the president once decried.
Proponents of the decision say anonymous donations to third party political groups are part of free speech, a way for individuals and companies to exercise their rights without facing potential backlash from political rivals.