Weapons Industry’s Investment in US Congress

The military industrial complex’s more than $10 million in annual campaign contributions both reward and encourage Congress to shovel money at the Pentagon, finds the advocacy group Public Citizen.

April 26, 2018: Secretary of Defense James Mattis, left, shaking hands with Sen. James Inhofe — a top recipient of military industrial complex contributions — during a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on the military budget. (DoD, Kathryn E. Holm)

By Jessica Corbett
Common Dreams

Military contractors give members of Congress millions of dollars in hopes of boosting the Pentagon budget — a practice that could have a huge payoff for the next fiscal year, 

The new report reveals the industry poured about $10.2 million into 2022 campaign and political action committee (PAC) contributions for members of key committees, and contractors could see a nearly 450,000% return on that investment.

The sector gave $2,990,252 to members of the House Armed Services Committee and $7,175,092 to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, or a total of $10,165,344 for this election cycle.

President Joe Biden requested an $813 billion Pentagon budget for fiscal year 2023. The House committee in June voted to add about $37 billion, while the Senate panel last month voted for a $45 billion increase above the White House request.

As the Public Citizen report — which relies on campaign finance data from OpenSecrets.org — explains:

“Notably, the average campaign contribution from the military-industrial complex to a member of the House or Senate Armed Services Committee who voted “yes” to increase military spending for FY23 is more than triple the average campaign contribution from the military-industrial complex to those who voted “no.” Those who voted “yes” received average contributions of $151,722. Those who voted “no” received average contributions of $42,967.”

The House committee’s top recipients from the past two years who recently voted to boost the Pentagon budget were Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) at $404,525; Rob Wittman (R-Va.) at $237,799; Mike Turner (R-Ohio) at $150,950; Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) at $131,000; and Elaine Luria (D-Va.) at $127,743. Rogers is the panel’s top Republican.

On the Senate side, the top recipients from the past six years who last month backed the budget increase were Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) at $874,876; Jack Reed (D-R.I.) at $822,757; Tim Kaine (D-Va.) at $616,152; Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) at $467,032; and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) at $409,842. Inhofe and Reed are respectively the committee’s ranking member and chair.

“The military-industrial complex’s campaign spending spree gives war profiteers an outsized influence over Pentagon funding votes,” said report co-author Savannah Wooten, the People Over Pentagon campaign coordinator at Public Citizen, in a statement. “It creates a self-fulfilling annual cycle where money from the industry begets money for the industry,” she said. “Instead of working overtime to secure defense contractor profits, Congress should prioritize the true, urgent human needs of everyday people.”

The report notes that “the military-industrial complex maintains a potent political influence machine that extends far beyond campaign spending, and there’s no reason to doubt that the supporters of more Pentagon spending believe in what they are doing.”

“But nor should anyone doubt that military-industrial complex campaign contributions both reward and encourage Congress to shovel money at the Pentagon—even as so many human needs and nonmilitary security interests (like addressing pandemics or climate chaos) remain desperately underfunded,” the document adds.

While federal lawmakers raking in hundreds of thousands of industry dollars work to dump more tax money into the Pentagon, some progressives in Congress are fighting to cut its budget and invest in those underfunded interests.

Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chairs of the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus, this week introduced amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 that would reverse the House attempt to add $37 billion to Biden’s Pentagon request and slash U.S. military spending by $100 billion.

“For far too long, this country has put profits ahead of its people,” Lee said. “It is time that we realign our priorities to reflect the urgent needs of communities across this country that are healing from a pandemic, ongoing economic insecurity, and an international energy crisis—none of which will be resolved through greater military spending.”

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

15 comments for “Weapons Industry’s Investment in US Congress

  1. robert e williamson jr
    July 10, 2022 at 15:47

    Depending on which “yard stick” is used and depending on whom and when it is used, everything in Washington can be considered corrupt. The SCOTUS ( see citizens united ruling) and all other major money players in D.C. wanted it that way.

    “Big Money “politics brought the plan to fruition. If all contributions were vetted the process of vetting alone would use up tons of funds and become corrupted also.

    When enough money is thrown around this behavior is inevitable.

    This is called “muddying up the water”, in an effort to create cover for bad behavior and compromising ( verb – 3 bring into disrepute or danger by indiscreet , foolish or reckless behavior ) the entire system of the lobby in the process.

  2. cjonsson1
    July 8, 2022 at 22:32

    I discovered the corruption of Public Citizen a couple of months ago after being a contributor. Not a pleasant finding. Their donors are among the top 10 destroyers of society and humanity. It used to be a decent organization. Thanks for bringing it to our attention Jessica Corbett and Consortium News.

    • robert e williamson jr
      July 10, 2022 at 14:47

      cjonssonl “I discovered the corruption of Public Citizen a couple of months ago after being a contributor.”

      Geesh! I feel like I just went through a time warp or something.

      Did I miss something here? I’m wondering if cjonssonl could provide some data / back-up material, to support these claims that Public Citizen has been corrupted. An accusation I fail to see evidence of by the author here.

      What I did notice was the authors revelation that donors to politicians donate to supporters of both the yes side and the no side of the issue. Nothing new there and THE number one reason why if you work in any capacity you have likely been compromised in one way or another. The direct result of taking money from donors and not knowing where the money comes from.

      Apparently the SCOTUS approves of such conduct, that whole money is speech thing, but I digress.

      If your discovery was only a couple of months ago did this corruption begin then?

      I’m very curious about this development.

  3. Realist
    July 8, 2022 at 18:51

    Ten million in above board campaign contributions? Our American politicians sell out cheap, as the return to the MIC has been (and will continue to be) in the Trillions! I’m sure we should also count the “investment opportunities” afforded to congress critters as well. They don’t walk into the Capitol Building as newly elected (but thoroughly vetted) paupers only to retire years later as multi-millionaires. Look at the tens (or is it hundreds?) of millions that Barack Obama has accrued since leaving the presidency after solidifying the MIC with the multiple concomitant wars he shepherded to realisation, including the rekindling of the Cold War with Russia and China. It was enough to make him a genuine collector of opulent mansions in every exclusive community in this country. He’s made the Obama family rich and powerful for at least the next several generations, like the Clintons had done before him.

    Every one of the last several US presidents have been monumental hypocrites when it comes to the notion of protecting human lives by assailing the “gun industry” and the 2nd amendment. They hyperventilate to scripted theatrics when it comes to domestic killings, probably occurring in the thousands every year while walking the extra mile to facilitate the mass slaughter of millions of innocent victims caught in the crossfire of American-instigated and executed wars around the globe. The deaths in both groups is, of course, a totally mercenary action meant to enrich quite specific uber-capitalists, but the level at which the US federal government provides for its clientele absolutely dwarfs the domestic collateral damage out in the precincts, wards and districts of our elected hypocrites. Still, they are people, even if congress critters prefer to think of them as mere votes. If it weren’t for all the lies they constantly tell us, our pols wouldn’t have a damned thing to say to us. For them, only money talks. Getting your vote is just the required evil to their achieving and maintaining a life of comfort.

  4. Greg
    July 8, 2022 at 18:41

    Considering the payoff 10 million would make the congress critters 5 dollar whores.

  5. July 8, 2022 at 15:01

    This is the tip of a very massive iceberg as it doesn’t touch income for services by retired members or subcontracts for their friends and families.

  6. July 8, 2022 at 14:46

    Someday we may find a President and a critical mass of savvy legislators to offer a plan to drastically reduce defense spending while taking on a more practical spending agenda. That means taking on the entrenched bureaucracy that drives the spending. All that is possible but unlikely since the beginning of the Cold War which was used to justify spending comparable to what was spent when we had a real war. Increased spending, like 40 billion to Ukraine with the opposition in Congress from feeble to non-existent is just another example. Did the media and Congress spend even a moment of Senator’s Paul’s proposal to appoint a watchdog to see how the money would be spent by one of the most corrupt nations in the world? Must have missed the discussion.

  7. July 8, 2022 at 10:12

    $10,165,344 spent on campaign contributions. That’s just the visible money. I strongly suspect that is just the tip of the iceberg. (If the invisible part is anything like an iceberg, 90% of the contributions are not visible. So the actual contributions might be over $101 million.)

    American politics are governed by the “Golden Rule”: He who has the gold, rules.

  8. Peter Loeb
    July 8, 2022 at 10:02

    Represntative Lee did NOT vote against the additional appropriation for the Ukraine. No Democrat did.

    (57 Republicans in the House voted against it. The Senate passed it unanimously.)

  9. Tim N
    July 8, 2022 at 07:24

    So says Barbara Lee, who voted for the huge gift package for Ukraine. “For too long, this country has put profits ahead of it’s people,” said Lee. Yeah, okay. How many times have we heard that? It right up there with “our thoughts and prayers are with the families aftet this senseless tragedy . . . ” Lee and company would be better off saying the latter, every time and after every outrage.

  10. Sam F
    July 8, 2022 at 05:50

    I am quite sure that the MIC “contributions” to political parties total many times the $10 million sent directly to the campaigns of armed services committees, probably closer to $1 billion, in addition to indirect payoffs such as hiring relatives, offering turnstile jobs, buying politician assets for inflated prices, etc., etc.

    The FBI and Homeland Security refuse to investigate political racketeering.
    This is because they are controlled by appointed political racketeers.
    I have investigated such corruption and found that $100 million is considered a small deal with a single politician.

  11. July 7, 2022 at 18:06

    The report notes that “the military-industrial complex maintains a potent political influence machine that extends far beyond campaign spending, and there’s no reason to doubt that the supporters of more Pentagon spending believe in what they are doing.”

    Interesting comment. I wholeheartedly agree that they completely believe in what they are doing as all psychopaths believe that everything they do is justifiable – that is to the extent that psychopaths even feel the need to justify anything they do.

  12. Smedley
    July 7, 2022 at 17:45

    Nice Racket …. take taxpayer money to buy corrupt officials who then supply even more taxpayer money.

    And, if you think this is great, please keep voting Democrat! The Party of Wall Street and the Pentagon would hate to see this perpetual money machine ever stop moving money from your pocket to theirs.

    • Frank Lambert
      July 9, 2022 at 07:42

      Smedley: I agree with you about the DemoRATS, but you failed to mention the Repulsive Party as they’re both partners in promoting War and Wall Street.

      As long as the people who even vote keep casting their ballots for the R’s & D’s, nothing will change for the betterment of society.

      I was talking to a US military veteran of our invasion and occupation of Afghanistan about a month ago and he said the “contractors” (formerly called mercenaries) can make $400,00 in 6 months in Afghanistan, and the contracting companies have sales reps handing out business cards to American G I’s for when they ETS (expiration of Term of Service) from the armed forces for these lucrative “job” positions.

      Sad to say, all the US is good at anymore is promoting war, legalized shylocking, GMO seeds and foods and experimental drugs, not to forget the glorification of the super-rich whose insatiable appetite for more money and power has no limits.

    • RS
      July 9, 2022 at 11:50

      Who ever said that voting for anyone would change the situation? You indicate an admirable but misplaced faith in a democracy that is no longer at issue. It would be far better for the U.S. if nobody voted at all. To vote for either candidate is to encourage a system that puts us all in danger.

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