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Will Ties to Pentagon Contractors Push 'Supercommittee' Democrats to Cut Entitlements?

AlterNet teams up with Salon and Brave New Foundation to document how Dems on the Congressional "supercommittee" get far more military campaign money and contracts than the GOP.

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Not to be outdone, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta  called $400 billion in cuts reasonable, but said a decrease of $600 billion, his estimate of the Pentagon’s additional loss in the event of sequestration, would lead to “dangerous cuts across the board -- defense cuts that I believe would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our military’s ability to protect the nation.”  

At the same time that the Pentagon has been waging this scare-offensive, top defense contractors have launched a lobbying campaign,  dubbed “Second to None,” in an attempt to mobilize average Americans to pressure their representatives to reject cuts to defense spending.   Using the twin specters of terrorism and the loss of manufacturing jobs, the campaign is far from subtle.  

“American leadership in aerospace and defense is being threatened by forces in Congress and the administration," the group's Web site warns. "The security of our troops, our technological future and our economic stability are all at risk.  We must preserve jobs across the nation that keep our nation strong.  Join us and act now before it is too late."

These efforts may, however, be mere window dressing compared with the industry’s most effective (and least acknowledged) everyday lobbying efforts, which are much less transparent than either the current Pentagon and industry campaigns.

Spread the Wealth

For many years, top defense firms have divided work on weapons systems across multiple states in order to exert influence over Congress.   The supercommittee is far from immune.  As the Associated Press recently  reported, the “six Republicans and six Democrats represent states where the biggest military contractors -- Lockheed Martin,  General Dynamics Raytheon Co. and  Boeing Co. -- build missiles, aircraft, jet fighters and tanks while employing tens of thousands of workers.”     

An AlterNet analysis of government contract data for the congressional districts of House members on the supercommittee bears this out.   California Democrat Xavier Becerra, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, has seen  more than $19 million worth of work from Pentagon contracts awarded to his district since 2007.  It’s been $53 million for the district of  Jeb Hensarling, the Texas Republican who co-chairs the  supercommittee. Dave Camp, the Republican from Michigan who heads the House Ways and Means Committee  has seen  $59 million worth of work from defense contractors in his district during that same period.  For Michigan Republican Fred Upton, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, it’s been $156 million in defense contracts for his district over the same years.

The House’s third-ranking Democrat and a veteran of the powerful Appropriations Committee, James Clyburn, has seen almost $1.8 billion go to defense contractors like General Dynamics, ITT and BAE Systems, in his district.  And for Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, an astounding $8.8 billion in Pentagon contracts, including deals with defense giants Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and General Dynamics, have gone to his district since 2007.

In the Senate, Democrats Patty Murray of Washington State, the super committee co-chair and a founding co-chair of the Senate Aerospace Caucus; John Kerry of Massachusetts, a former presidential candidate and current member of the Finance Committee; and Montana’s Max Baucus, who chairs the Finance Committee, all have defense interests in their states, although some are far more powerful than others.   Since 2007, Montana has seen a modest $1.2 billion in defense contracting work.  Not so for Washington State, which has reaped $26.5 billion in defense deals, while contracts in Massachusetts, to companies including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, L-3 Communications and Textron, among many others, added up to an eye-popping $56.6 billion over the same years.