This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) that would prohibit funds provided by a Defense Department funding bill from being used to enforce any regulation relating to the disclosure of political contributions. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Defense Department programs in fiscal year 2012.
President Obama had drafted but not yet issued an executive order that would require companies bidding for federal government contracts to disclose their political financial contributions. Cole stated that his amendment was intended to circumvent this possible executive order.
Cole urged support for his amendment: “…In April a draft executive order was circulated that would require all companies bidding on federal contracts to disclose all federal campaign contributions. If enacted, this executive order would effectively politicize the federal procurement process, in my opinion. Companies wouldn't merely be judged by the merits of their past performance, by the capability to do the job, but would also be obviously considered on the basis of who they gave money to or against. This would clearly chill the constitutionally protected right to donate to political parties, candidates and causes of one's choice; and, I think, frankly, that's exactly what the executive order, proposed executive order, is intended to do. My amendment would simply prohibit funds from this act being used to implement such an executive order.”
Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) opposed Cole’s amendment: “Our system has been improved by having public disclosure of political contributions. The more the public knows about where the money is coming from, the better off the citizenry is. The amendment is a legislative attempt to circumvent a draft executive order, which would provide for increased disclosure of the political contributions of government contractors, especially contributions given to third-party entities….Disclosure is good because disclosure of campaign contributions to candidates is good. Disclosure of companies making these disclosures is good. And I just worry that we have a situation here where companies or major entities could make enormous contributions secretly, and that's what we are trying to avoid. And the President's executive order is an attempt to do that. We already know that the Boeings, the Lockheeds, the General Dynamics and the Northrop Grummans all make campaign contributions, and they are all disclosed. What's wrong with disclosure?”
The House agreed to Cole’s amendment by a vote of 256-170. Voting “yea” were 236 Republicans and 20 Democrats. 168 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 2 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would prohibit funds provided by a Defense Department funding bill from being used to enforce any regulation relating to the disclosure of political contributions. In order for this amendment to become law, however, it would have to pass the Senate.