The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a massive package of proposed new economic rules for the Asia-Pacific region (including the US), heavily influenced by corporate priorities through the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and under negotiation right now. You might not have heard of it, but if it’s eventually signed, its secret texts will affect your life.
At the TPP negotiations’ official stakeholder briefing May 13th outside Dallas, USTR announced that the nine TPP country Chief negotiators together had just awarded a prize to the first negotiators to finalize their chapter: rules on small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Meanwhile, negotiators of chapters that are taking time for review and input are now getting a little punishment. For example, intellectual property negotiators who have been appropriately scrutinizing proposals that would transform their countries’ laws regarding generic medicines, internet freedom and much more, have reportedly been dragged before the assembled Chiefs more than once to face pointed questions about what’s taking so long. USTR is driving this new tactic, which even the US Chief Negotiator described as a more “heavy-handed approach.”
Should war profiteering corporations like drone manufacturer Northrop Grumman be permitted to secretly fund political campaigns?
Of course not. But that’s just one of the scarier implications of KPOFCA, an appalling bill before the Senate that would create a corporate corruption loophole for government contractors.
Last week, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), whose top campaign contributor is Northrop Grumman, Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose top contributor is General Dynamics, and others on the Homeland Security committee approved S. 1100, misleadingly titled the “Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act” (S. 1100) – or KPOFCA (say it “kuh-poff-ka”), for short. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) was the lone voice against the bill on the committee.
KPOFCA would prevent the government from requiring federal contractors to disclose money they’re spending to influence elections. In other words, it would open a corporate corruption loophole that would tremendously weaken reforms that can strengthen disclosure in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.
Military corporations are just one example, though it makes sense to emphasize their outsized role in federal contracting – of the $536.8 billion the government spent on contracts in 2011, $374.2 billion (or nearly 70 percent) were with the Department of Defense.
Other federal contractors include huge companies like GE, Verizon, AT&T and others that would welcome a guarantee that their dark money will stay secret even as they are awarded taxpayer dollars from federal contracts.