Obama ‘Seriously Considering’ Contractor Executive Order
By Justin Miller | Jan 20, 2016
The New York Times reported Wednesday that President Obama is “seriously considering” an executive order that would require federal contractors to more fully disclose their political spending, a move that campaign reform advocates say would be a symbolic first step toward shining a light on undisclosed “dark” money.
The Times report follows increased pressure from campaign-finance reformers, who complain that Obama’s record on money in politics has been heavy on rhetoric but short on action. Those reformers greeted Obama’s announcement during his final State of the Union address that he would travel the country to promote campaign-finance and democracy reforms with some skepticism, but saw it as a good sign that he might be ready to sign the executive order.
So far, the administration is sticking to its official talking points. “While we will continue to examine additional steps we can take to reduce the corrosive influence of money in politics, only Congress can put an end to it,” a White House spokeswoman told the Times.
But White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was less shy in a press conference Tuesday. "We’ll do audacious executive action throughout the course of the year—I’m confident about that,” McDonough told the press corps. McDonough said the president is adopting a “Why not?” attitude when considering executive action during his final year in office.
"Obama is again considering imposing his ‘enemies list’ regulation by executive order,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “If future Republican presidents lived by this why not standard, Democrats would be outraged."
Senator John McCain, who has often disagreed with McConnell’s laissez-faire stance on campaign financing, backed the Senate leader up, saying that if Obama uses executive action on this issue it will likely have to go straight to the courts.
Still, it’s worth noting that Obama has faced sustained pressure throughout his second term to sign this specific executive order, but failed to take action. Republicans on Capitol Hill, who object that the order would violate the First Amendment and would politicize the federal contracting process, have reportedly exerted strong pressure on Obama not to sign it.
If Obama wants the order to shed any light on the dark money underwriting the 2016 elections, he will have to act fast. The president has pledged to take action on campaign financing. The only question now is whether he will use his executive power to follow through.
This post has been updated to include responses from Senators Mitch McConnell and John McCain.