President Obama considering executive action forcing companies to list campaign gifts

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Earlier this month, after Congress repeatedly failed to pass new measures on gun control, Obama took things into his own hands, issuing an executive order that improved background checks and expanded access to mental-health care for anyone trying to purchase a gun. Now he's reportedly considering yet another executive order, this time to reform the way political campaigns are financed. According to the New York Times, the president's new order would require companies with federal contracts to publicly disclose their campaign donations. Although he's reportedly been contemplating the order for more than a year, discussion has "intensified in recent weeks" as he heads into his final year in office.

By fiat, the president hopes to curb "dark money" donations from huge corporations like ExxonMobil, Apple, General Motors, and General Electric, all of which have federal contracts. As of 2010, when the Supreme Court declined to limit corporate political spending, these and other companies can donate unlimited amounts of money to political action committees. Activists have advocated a check on these donations, but business groups say making donations public would violate their freedom of speech.

See images of Obama's town halls on gun control:

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Obama Town Hall on Gun Control
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President Obama considering executive action forcing companies to list campaign gifts
President Barack Obama watches the replay of his emotional speech from earlier this week during a CNN televised town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama, right, during a commercial break at a CNN televised town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper, right, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
FAIRFAX, VA - JANUARY 7: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama greets Taya Kyle, widow of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, during a commercial break at town hall at George Mason University on January 7, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia. The president this week announced new, relatively mild executive actions to regulate the gun industry. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, VA - JANUARY 7: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama listens to a question from Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu during a live town hall event with CNN's Anderson Cooper (R) at town hall at George Mason University on January 7, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia. The president this week announced new, relatively mild executive actions to regulate the gun industry. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama, right, stops to greet Father Michael Pfleger, left, Pastor at Saint Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago during a commercial break at a CNN televised town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama answers questions during a CNN televised town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama, left, speaks during a CNN televised town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper, right, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/ NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/ NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Father Michael Pfleger, left, Pastor at Saint Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago, speaks with former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., right, and her husband Mike Kelly, center, right, before taking their seats for President Barack Obama's televised town hall at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/ NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., right, and her husband Mark Kelly, left, arrive to participate in President Barack Obama's televised town hall at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton, is seen on a television monitor asking a question to President Barack Obama during a CNN televised town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama replies to a question by Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu (L) at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper (R) on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama replies to a question by Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu (standing, L) at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper (R) on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper (R) on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, VA - JANUARY 7: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama and CNN's Anderson Cooper (R) pause during a commercial break at George Mason University on January 7, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia. The president this week announced new, relatively mild executive actions to regulate the gun industry. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, VA - JANUARY 7: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama greets former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords during a commercial break at town hall at George Mason University on January 7, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia. The president this week announced new, relatively mild executive actions to regulate the gun industry. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
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"The real goal of the disclosure proponents is to harass, intimidate and silence those with whom they disagree," Blair Latoff Holmes, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the Times. "We continue to believe that one's political activities should play no role in whether or not you get or keep a federal contract." Notably, Holmes did not object to corporations using donations to get federal contracts in the first place.

In his State of the Union speech last week, President Obama appeared to double down on campaign finance reform, saying, "We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics so that a handful of families and hidden interests can't bankroll our elections." After the speech, Denis R. McDonough, the president's chief of staff, told reporters to expect "audacious executive action throughout the course of the year."

Obama's plan comes as a California businessman introduces a bill to force lawmakers to wear the logos of their biggest donors, the way NASCAR drivers do. While that's potentially stylish, legal experts say such a measure might clash with the First Amendment.

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