During the New Deal era, agents of the Democratic administration coerced federal contractors benefiting from the government spending splurge to “purchase” political books at wildly inflated prices as a condition for continuing to receive lucrative government contracts. In response to this blatant shakedown, Congress amended the Hatch Act ethics law in 1940 to prohibit political contributions from contractors.
Earlier this week, 130 members of the House and Senate lobbied the White House to revive its previously abandoned attempt to undermine this important ethics reform. Specifically, the members wrote to President Obama urging him to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to make it publicly known whether they side with certain politicians and political causes, thereby currying favor or ill will from government officials who may influence the contracting process. How quickly we forget history’s lessons.