July 14, 2009 - Boeing and Lockheed Martin will be watching the Senate closely this week as it considers the defense authorization bill, which includes $1.75 billion for seven new F-22 Raptors that Defense Secretary Robert Gates says are not needed. Combined, these two companies have given nearly $1.4 million in campaign contributions so far this year to 50 senators as the companies have fought to continue funding for the much-criticized fighter jet. In addition, the two defense giants have spent nearly $9 million lobbying Congress, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Indeed, both Lockheed and Boeing's lobbying operations are in supersonic overdrive around the issue, and the companies have spent $6.5 million and $2.4 million, respectively, on lobbying during the first three months of 2009, CRP data shows. They are working against Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI), who have committed to cutting funding for more F-22s. Secretary Gates has said the 187 Lockheed Martin-produced F-22s now in the Air Force fleet or in production are sufficient to combat current and future threats and that more are not needed.
"Lockheed and Boeing are practicing the time-honored Washington tradition of spending big to influence and buy access to protect their bottom lines," said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. "Until we get defense contractors and other special interests out of the business of paying for congressional campaigns, we'll be making jets we don't need and spending billions of taxpayer dollars that could be better used for other critical needs like education and health care."
So far, the two companies have chalked up some successes with all that spending. Congress recently passed a separate supplemental spending bill for conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that included an additional $600 million for the procurement of four new F-22 fighters and barred the use of those funds to shut-down the F-22 production line, as the Obama Administration had wanted.
The F-22 is not new to controversy. In June 2006, the Government Accountability Office wrote to the then-chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Rep. Bill Young (R-FL), stating, "in our opinion, the [Department of Defense] has not demonstrated the need or value for making further investments" in the F-22 program. Secretary Gates has been an outspoken critic of the F-22 and specifically cut funding for it in his proposed 2010 Pentagon budget.
Yet not only does the funding remain in the defense authorization bill passed by the House and under consideration now in the Senate, but Sens. McCain and Levin face an uphill battle to pull it out, even though the President doesn't want it, the Secretary of Defense doesn't want it, and even the Air Force has said it doesn't need it.
Common Cause continues to work to pass the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826 / S.752) as the comprehensive solution to the pay-to-play culture in Washington, DC, which would create a citizen-funded election system for Congress in which candidates could run for office on a blend of small donations and public funds.
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