Under provisions of a draft executive order being floated, companies seeking government contracts would be required to disclose contributions to groups that air political ads either attacking or supporting candidates, Politico reported.
Last month, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a decree that could give shareholders a greater say in corporate election spending, Politico reported. Democratic appointees to the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Election Commission also are advocating measures that could publicize currently anonymous contributions to outside groups. Democratic FEC commissioners also are attempting to limit political contributions made by U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations.
The moves come after Congress failed to pass legislation last year that would have blunted the impact of the Supreme Court's January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC that removed longtime restrictions on corporate and union political ad spending.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is among the critics latching onto the document, calling it evidence President Obama is using his executive power to punish political adversaries and reward supporters.
Chamber spokeswoman Blair Latoff called the draft "an affront to the separation of powers … [and] to free speech" that would create a litmus test for companies wanting to work with the federal government.
Congressional Democrats and White House allies say the executive order would prevent the 2012 elections from being taken over by undisclosed, high-rolling special interests on both sides of the political aisle.
"The fact that congressional Republicans may oppose disclosure does not mean that efforts to obtain it are, by definition, partisan," Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a non-profit group favoring stricter campaign finance rules, told Politico.