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Pork and Piggy Banks: U.S. Defense Contractor Campaign Contributions and Political Influence

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Pork and Piggy Banks: U.S. Defense Contractor Campaign Contributions and Political Influence

 

Laurence A. Toenjes

 

Total U.S. Department of Defense prime contracts increased from $144.6 billion in FY 2001 to $294.9 billion in FY 2006, a 103.9 percent growth, according to a report by William D. Hartung and Frida Berrigan of the World Policy Institute.  The five largest—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and Raytheon—received a total of $84 billion in defense contracts in FY 2006.

 

During the 1999-2000 election cycle defense industry PAC contributions to all federal candidates totaled $6.4 million. During the 2005-2006 cycle this total had increased to$9.7 million, up 52 percent.

 

The Center For Responsive Politics (CRP) on its website presents detailed information regarding campaign contributions from defense industry PACs to congressmen and senators.  For example, CRP data for the 2005-2006 election cycle shows $2,823,572 from defense PACs to members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) alone.  Individuals employed by these defense firms contributed an additional  $621,130 in non-PAC funds to members of the HASC.

 

Lockheed Martin’s PAC contributed $1,599,299 to 45 senators and 277 representatives during 2005-2006, indicating how broadly they spread their largesse.  Relative to Lockheed Martin’s FY 2006 defense contracts of $26.6 billion (Hartung and Berrigan) these contributions of $1.6 million represent just 6 one-thousandths of 1 percent (0.006 percent). Such expenditures may be chump change to Lockheed Martin, but they average out to just under $5,000 to each of the 322 congressmen and senators who received them.  This may not be enough to buy an ambassadorship, but $5,000 should certainly be rewarded with smile in a committee hearing room and perhaps a vote to keep the contract money flowing.

 

The deeper concern with the defense industry is not just that it influences Congress to appropriate these large amounts of funds for its benefit but rather that this industry has an inordinate amount of influence in determining U.S. defense and foreign policy itself. This influence comes via several channels, including financial support to so-called think tanks who develop the intellectual rationale for a more aggressive posture (such as preemptive wars); through the passage of high-ranking administrators back and forth through the revolving door between defense firms, the Pentagon, and the Administration; through the locating of job sites in Congressional districts for the sole purpose of influencing their votes; and of course through the distribution of PAC contributions, noted above.

 

Hartung and his colleagues have written extensively on the influence upon defense and foreign policy of the major defense firms.  In the area of foreign sales of military hardware, for example, Hartung and Frida Berrigan pointed out that 54 of the 57 members of the Defense Trade Advisory Group “are executives of major arms exporting firms.” It is difficult to imagine how that advisory group, given its composition, would be a force for exercising restraint on foreign arms sales. 

 

In a 2003 paper Andre Verloy and Daniel Politi state that “Of the 30 members of the Defense Policy Board, the government-appointed group that advises the Pentagon, at least nine have ties to companies that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002.  Four members are registered lobbyists, one of whom represents two of the three largest defense contractors.”

 

As regards the revolving door, Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca stated (2004):

 

“When the Bush administration first took office, it appointed 32 executives, paid consultants, or major shareholders of weapons contractors to top policymaking positions in the Pentagon, the National Security Council, the Department of Energy (involved in nuclear weapons development), and the State Department. Since that time, the “revolving door” has continued to spin, including a high profile scandal in which Air Force procurement official Darleen Druyun pled guilty to criminal charges for negotiating for a position at Boeing while simultaneously negotiating with the company on the terms of a controversial scheme to lease 100 more Boeing 767 airliners for modification and use as aerial refueling tankers.  Another controversial move involved Pentagon acquisition chief Edward “Pete” Aldridge’s decision to move straight from Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon to a position on the board of Lockheed Martin.”

 

Many other Administration officials or consultants have been associated with Lockheed Martin, such as National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Navy Secretary Gordon England, and Air Force Assistant Secretary Peter Teets, former CEO (see Hallinan, below). Bruce Jackson, one-time vice president for strategy and planning for Lockheed from 1999 to 2002, played an important role in the expansion of NATO to additional countries of Eastern Europe and in the selling of the Iraq War, as chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq  (see “Lockheed Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” by Richard Cummings). 

 

Two excellent and brief overviews of many of the issues raised above are contained in (1) “The Role of the Arms Lobby in the Bush Administrations’s Radical Reversal of Two Decades of U.S. Nuclear Policy” by William D. Hartung with Jonathan Reingold and (2)  Conn Hallinan, Commentary: "The Cross of Iron," Foreign Policy in Focus, December 19, 2003.

 

There is no shortage of data and papers describing different aspects of the “iron triangle” made up of Congress, the Pentagon, and defense contractors and their lobbyists.  The problem is to present the information in ways to get more citizens to view it as a serious problem. Towards this end I have attempted to develop some graphical devices to help make the case.  For example, at www.polinetworks.com/Page_17.htm  is a graph that shows the links between the PACs of 21 of the major U.S. defense contractors and members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) to whom they contributed during the 2005-2006 election cycle.  The graph shows 405 financial contribution linkages between the 21 PACs and the 54 current members of the committee who received PAC contributions during that period.  The contributions shown totaled $1,651,823, not including non-PAC contributions by individuals or PAC contributions to members’ leadership PACs. 

 

The point of the exhibit, made visually and with the numerical data, is that when the House Armed Services Committee actually meets there is upwards of $2 million on the table in front of them from just these 21 PACs.  This money may not be visible to the naked eye, but everyone in the committee meeting room knows it’s there, and it has its effect--the dark matter of the expansion of defense budgets.

 

Another exhibit, www.polinetworks.com/Page_25.htm , places each of the members of the HASC within their own House district on a U.S. map, illustrating the geographical extent of the PAC contributions from these 21 defense contractors.  Note that when viewing these exhibits it is possible to select individual PACs or congressmen and see the linkages that pertain to just that individual.

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Laurence A.Toenjes is retired from the University of Houston ?s Department of Sociology where he was a researcher with The Sociology of Education Research Group. Toenjes received his doctorate in economics from Southern Illinois University.

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