Will Ties to Pentagon Contractors Push 'Supercommittee' Democrats to Cut Entitlements?
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On the other side of the aisle, Ohio’s freshman Republican senator Rob Portman represents a state whose defense contracting take since 2007 was nearly $30 billion. In John Kyl’s Arizona, deals with massive weapons-makers like Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics, BAE Systems and Honeywell, to name a few, have pushed total Pentagon dollars spent there to $55 billion in those same years. While Pennsylvania, which elected supercommittee member Pat Toomey to the Senate last year, bested them all with $57 billion in deals for defense work, including major Defense Department contracts with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, since 2007.
The money, however, doesn’t just flow one way. While corporations can’t directly donate funds to candidates, their political action committees, officials, and representatives (as well as immediate family members of the latter) do. According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, all members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction have received significant contributions from the defense sector since 2007.
But during the 2010 election cycle, half of the Republicans panel -- John Kyl, Pat Toomey and Rob Portman -- received no donations from either of the two largest defense contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. (These firms reaped approximately $28 billion and $18 billion in contracts, respectively, from the Pentagon that year.) Of the six Democrats on the supercommittee, only Kerry received no contributions from one of the two defense giants
No member of the supercommittee, and no lawmaker in all of Washington, D.C., received more donations from Boeing than co-chair Patty Murray. Of the $3.2 million the missile-maker dispersed to lawmakers in 2009-2010, the Washington Democrat received $85,860. That sum was $20,000 more than was donated to the next two largest congressional recipients of Boeing money combined, according to data from the Sunlight Foundation.
An analysis by AlterNet further found that more than one-third of Murray’s top 100 donors during the 2010 cycle were defense contractors that collectively signed $57.5 billion worth of deals with the Pentagon last year.
Just last week, the Aerospace Industries Association, the coalition of more than 300 defense and aerospace firms behind the Second to None campaign, presented Murray with its Wings of Liberty award “in recognition of her longtime support of the aerospace and defense industry,” according to the press release. “Senator Murray knows the value of the aerospace and defense industry,” said Jim Albaugh, Boeing’s executive vice president and the chairman of AIA’s Board of Governors, marking the occasion.
“Value” is the operative word.
Since 2007, Murray’s haul in defense industry donations is greater than the combined total of the top four Republican recipients (Camp, Portman, Upton and Hensarling) on the supercommittee. Yet even she doesn’t top House veteran James Clyburn. Over that same period, the South Carolina Democrat received more than $311,000 in defense industry donations, including $141,000 during the 2010 election cycle. AlterNet also found that 13 of Clyburn’s top 20 donors during the 2010 election cycle were defense contractors who were collectively awarded more than $23 billion in contracts from the Pentagon in 2010.
No Gloom, No Doom
According to Winslow Wheeler, who worked on national security issues on Capitol Hill for 31 years, the popularly cited “doomsday” cuts of around $850 billion to military budgets mentioned in regard to sequestration are likely underestimates. In reality, the mandatory reductions would probably wipe out close to $1 trillion in projected Pentagon spending over the next 10 years. This would be far from catastrophic, according to Wheeler. Citing analysis by Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Wheeler wrote last month at the Huffington Post: