- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Bush administration has repealed a Clinton-era rule that prevents the government from awarding federal contracts to businesses that have broken environmental, labor, tax or other federal laws.

Labor unions pushed the last administration to enact the rule barring lawbreakers. President Clinton signed the order a few months after a computer analysis by the Associated Press found hundreds of contractors remained eligible for federal business despite having been convicted or sued for defrauding the government.

The Bush administration suspended enforcement of the rule in March. The repeal was published last week in the Federal Register.

Business groups praised the move, contending the regulation went too far and unfairly blacklisted companies with minor infractions or that had not been proved guilty.

"This rule gave government agents blanket discretion to blacklist federal contractors based on subjective and arbitrary notions of satisfactory compliance with any federal, state or even foreign law," said Randy Johnson, U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president for labor and employee benefits. "Mere allegations of wrongdoing could prevent a business from winning a federal contract."

The chamber organized the National Alliance Against Blacklisting and lobbied Congress along with other business groups.

Unions, which preferred to call the regulation the "contractor responsibility rule," criticized the Bush administration. Any company that violates labor, employment, environmental, civil rights or other federal laws cannot be trusted to receive taxpayer-financed government contracts, union spokesmen said.

"To ordinary citizens who play by the rules every day, the Bush administration has said that it's OK for corporations that violate the law to be rewarded with millions of taxpayer dollars," the AFL-CIO said in a statement.


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