By Alister Bull
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama wants to require federal contractors to publicly disclose donations to political campaigns, the White House said on Wednesday, drawing a sharp rebuke from top Republicans.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama wanted to make the federal contracting system more accountable and transparent, and was pursuing this goal via executive order.
"He believes very strongly that taxpayers deserve to know whether or not the contractors that their money is going to ... how they are spending their money and how they are spending in terms of political campaigns," Carney told reporters traveling with Obama on Air Force One.
He said the executive order, which is a presidential directive, was still being drafted and declined to comment specifically on its contents because the details could change.
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.
They sharply criticized the move, saying it was an attempt to muzzle Obama's critics.
"No White House should be able to review your political party affiliation before deciding if you're worthy of a government contract," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. "No one should have to worry about whether their political support will determine their ability to get or keep a federal contract or keep their job," he said in a statement.
Funding for U.S. political campaigns was unleashed by a 2010 Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited spending by corporations, unions and other groups. This decision dismayed Obama, who has blamed anonymous donations for corrupting U.S. politics.
"The president is committed to improving our federal contracting system, making it more transparent and more accountable. He believes that American taxpayers deserve that, and that is what he intends to pursue through this executive order," Carney said.
Obama is headed to California on a two-day West Coast swing to plug his deficit reduction plan and also plans events to raise money for his 2012 re-election campaign.
Obama's 2008 presidential victory was aided by a wildly successful grass-roots fundraising drive that generated $750 million, helping to counter a traditional cash advantage Republicans have enjoyed thanks to their close business ties.
Analysts say Obama's 2012 funding machine could gather upward of $1 billion.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason aboard Air Force One; Editing by Xavier Briand)