By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON - One of President Barack Obama's fellow top Democrats in Congress said on Tuesday he opposes Obama's plans to require federal contractors to publicly disclose donations to political campaigns.
House of Representatives Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters that making campaign contributions public should not be part of the contract-award process.
"There are some serious questions as to what implications there are if somehow we consider political contributions in the context of awarding contracts," said Hoyer, who represents Washington suburbs in Maryland, where a number of federal contractors are located.
Hoyer's position, quickly hailed by Republicans, will complicate efforts by Obama to issue the executive order, which the White House said last month was aimed at making the federal contracting system more accountable.
"I'm glad to see that somebody on the other side is standing up to this blatant attempt to intimidate people," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
The executive order, a presidential directive, was still being drafted, but a White House spokesman said in April that Obama believed taxpayers should know how federal contractors were spending their money in political campaigns.
Republicans, along with many in the business community, have criticized the move, calling it an attempt by Obama to muzzle his own critics.
Anonymous donations funded millions of dollars' worth of attack advertisements against Obama's fellow Democrats in the run-up to last November's congressional elections.
That election was won decisively by Republicans, who took control of the House of Representatives and increased their clout in the Senate.
Funding for U.S. political campaigns was unleashed by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited spending by corporations, unions and other groups. The decision dismayed Obama, who has blamed anonymous donations for corrupting U.S. politics.
Hoyer was asked about Obama's anticipated executive order at his weekly news conference.
"I'm not in agreement with the administration on that issue," Hoyer said.
"The issue on contracting ought to be on the merits of the contractors' application and bid and capabilities," he added.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by David Lawder)
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.