Along with lying about the size of the budget deficit and imposing a steep rise in the car tax, California Governor Gray Davis did something else to guarantee his historic recall: impose a pay-to-play “donation” schedule on groups wanting to do state business. Want a permit from the Coastal Commission? How about a government contract to manage welfare cases?
For Davis & Co. there was only one question: How much did you contribute to my campaign?
Former Federal Elections Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky obtained a draft executive order that would implement the substance of the Disclose Act, a bill promising to chill corporate political speech before it was defeated in Congress last year.
According to von Spakovsky, the proposed executive order claims to “increase transparency and accountability,”
Yet this proposed Executive Order would require government contractors to disclose:
(a) All contributions or expenditures to or on behalf of federal candidates, parties or party committees made by the bidding entity, its directors or officers, or any affiliates or subsidiaries within its control.
(b) Any contributions made to third party entities with the intention or reasonable expectation that parties would use those contributions to make independent expenditures or electioneering communications.
In layman’s terms, that means the federal government wants to know which political groups you’ve been giving money to before it will consider awarding a government contract.
In an editorial today, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) notes that the order exempts federal employee labor unions and the recipients of federal grants, both dues paying members of the Democratic Party.
At the moment, the Right is deploring the president’s last-ditch effort to silence dissenting political views after losses in the courts, Congress, and the FEC. (Especially since Obama’s executive order specifically targets only those entities most likely to disagree with him.)
However, the Left should be leery of this latest version of gangster government. There’s only a hair’s breadth of difference between punishing “bad” political expenditures, and demanding “good” ones. As the deposed Gray Davis showed in California, a government nosy enough to punish its enemies, is a government powerful enough to tax its friends.