Published May 19, 2011
While you were watching the political meltdowns...
Say you work hard and take a risk to start a business providing a good or service. The business is going fairly well and you decide to apply to get a federal government contract, because you can provide the result on time and on budget.
You’re totally qualified and the best person for the job. But, there’s a catch: In the past two years, you’ve given money to an organization that the current administration doesn’t like. You’re never told why, but you don’t get the contract. Was the decision based on merit? Or your donations?
You’ll probably never know. And what’s more, you probably won’t take the chance again and will stop donating to groups you worry aren’t going to sit well with the current group of government contract decision-makers (to name two opposing groups: National Right to Life or Planned Parenthood).
You're probably thinking this could not happen in America, right? Wrong.
Here’s what’s happening: The administration is planning to have President Obama sign what’s called an executive order, which is a policy tool that’s used when you don’t need – or don’t want to ask for – congressional approval.
Presidents have done this for decades, but rarely is an administration so brazen as to use it for purely political reasons. In this case, people will undoubtedly be discouraged from donating to a cause or political organization that they care about if it isn't in line with the current administration, because getting the contract is much more important to their livelihoods.
And here's the kicker: the EO would reach back two years. Anyone else think that’s terribly convenient?
When I first heard this, I thought, "Surely this can’t be true!" Someone in the government must agree with me, because they leaked the draft document to Congress and the media.
Now some members, including a bipartisan list of members of Congress, Sens. Collins and McCaskill, and Reps. Issa and Hoyer, are trying to put the brakes on the issuance of the EO.
Some defenders of the EO have said that it’s no big deal because this kind of information is already collected and it would never be used against an application. If the EO isn't a big deal, why is it even necessary? Why don’t we just agree the EO is unnecessary and therefore won’t be issued? And if they can't factor this information into their contracting decisions, why ask for it in the first place?
How could they do this? I mean, this IS still America, isn’t it? Where you get to express yourself freely, without worry of your beliefs impacting the way you try to make a living?
Shouldn't we guarantee that the best possible person be selected for the job, in the interest of the taxpayers funding this work? Even beyond the contracting and procurement processes, disclosure of this sort could lead to targeted retaliation and harassment. Contracts should be awarded on whether the company or individual is qualified, and if they can deliver -- it shouldn’t matter what organization anyone supports – period.
The administration is about to put its heavy thumb on the scale that determines who gets federal contracts – and who doesn’t – based on organizations the applicant and the company’s officers have given money to in the past, even in their personal capacity. Is everybody cool with this? No way, but that’s not stopping them.
Folks, it's time to pay attention before hardworking people are forced to choose between causes they believe in, and putting dinner on the table.