After Jan 6, weapons corps slammed Republicans - now they fund them
American weapons industries are back to paying lawmakers, representatives, and lobbyists for their war interests.
After the January 6 Capitol riots in 2021, US defense corporations announced that they would take a step back and reconsider their political donations.
However, in April 2021, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics, resumed their donations to both Republicans and Democrats - even the 147 Republicans who voted against Biden's election certification in 2021 have received $2 million in total.
The midterm elections are on their way, and the numbers are likely to experience an uptick once the Federal Election Commission posts its contributions for October.
“This is business as usual,” said Sean McFate, an adjunct professor in national security at Syracuse University and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. “That one purchases influence is a time-tested way to generate business for a military-industrial company. It’s an open secret. It’s a form of corruption, essentially. It’s a well-known problem without a solution.”
Boeing, for instance, in January 2021, condemned the January 6 Capitol riot, saying it “strongly condemns the violence, lawlessness, and destruction that took place in the US Capitol on January 6, 2021."
Less than two years later, Boeing in August 2022 handed $445,000 to 68 Republicans who voted against Biden's election. This is the largest donation spent on Republicans since the Capitol riots. So far, Boeing has made $5 million in election donations.
On the same day Boeing condemned the riots, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blamed Trump for the violence just after voting against certifying Biden's election victory. Two weeks later, McCarthy reconciled with Trump, and he is set to become speaker of the House if Republicans win.
This year, McCarthy received at least $72,500 for this $33 million fundraiser from the top five defense companies. However, that number is not comparable to what defense corporations are giving lawmakers, lobbyists, and executives in the form of bribes.
“Every cent that’s spent on military goods in the United States has to be authorized and appropriated by Congress,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant and the COO of the Lexington Institute, a think tank based in Virginia. Thompson consults for Lockheed Martin while her company takes contributions from other weapons corporations, such as General Dynamics.
“These companies really don’t have a choice,” he added. “They have to be on good terms with their political customer.”
Defense corporations are also making contributions to Democrats. Nancy Pelosi of California took $50,000, Steny Hoyer of Maryland took $91,000, and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina took $64,500 - all from renowned defense contractors.
Although it is illegal for federal contractors to donate to politicians' PACs (Political Action Committees), corporations can form their own employee PACs. Then, employee PACs contribute to lawmakers and their respective leadership PACs.
After January 6, Lockheed Martin, the largest defense contractor in the US, was one of the corporations that said it would evaluate its donations to “reflect our core values and the constantly changing political landscape and priorities” while ensuring “our political donation and engagement program remains aligned with our business priorities.”
In these elections, Lockheed Martin donated at least $450,500 to Republicans who refused to certify Biden's victory. The elections went through in August 2022, paying 91 Republicans that denied certification and spending at least $3.2 million in total campaign donations.
“Our employee PAC program continues to observe long-standing principles of non-partisan political engagement in support of our business interests,” the company told Defense News in a statement.
Who received the most from the top defense corporations is Republican Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama, who is also the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. Rogers, so far, has gotten at least $89,500 so far from the top five firms.
Contributions from weapons industries facilitate their access to political influence and decision-making. Money is an effective tool of influence when combined with high-powered lobbyists working on the behalf of a corporation.
“All of these offices are going to have a long memory, and are going to remember who stopped contributing and who didn’t,” a defense lobbyist said on condition of anonymity to speak freely.
“Public perception demanded an immediate pause in the aftermath of January 6, but as the memory of that faded, contributions resumed and it’s very easy to be fully maxed out over the end of the cycle.”
On their part, General Dynamics, though having not issued any statement after January 6, have halted their contributions until April 2021. In September 2022, General Dynamics donated at least $403,500 to 66 election-denying lawmakers, with campaign donations amounting to $2.5 million.
And Raytheon Technologies, the second-largest firm with $41.9 billion in 2021, contributed at least $375,000 in donations through August 2022 to 65 election-denying Republicans.
“If contractors were not able to contribute to political campaigns, it’s doubtful that there would be strong bipartisan support for the nation’s defense posture,” said Thompson. “The name of the game on Capitol Hill is getting reelected. And if contractors can’t participate in that process, then chances are lawmakers will not care much about their interests.”
Northrop Grumman has so far donated at least $225,500 in August 2022 to 28 election-denying lawmakers, which is the smallest number among defense contractors so far. It has donated at least $2.4 million in campaign donations thus far.
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