The House and Senate will likely vote this week on the $106 billion war supplemental bill to continue funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House passed the funding bill on Tuesday, and the Senate will likely vote this week. Like most supplemental spending bills, however, this one includes many add-ons, such as the continued production of the F-22 Raptor fighter jet.
This comes as good news for Lockheed Martin and Boeing Corporation, which have fought hard over the years to keep the production line going in spite of criticism about costs and performance of the F-22.
Lockheed gave more than $2.8 million in campaign contributions during the last election, of which $1 million went to just the members of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Boeing spent $2.3 million, $940,000 of which went to these same committee members who have the most influence over the program's funding.
Lockheed has spent $6.5 million on lobbying so far this year, on top of the $15.8 million it spent last year. Including all of the outside law firms lobbying on its behalf, Lockheed had 146 lobbyists on Capitol Hill pleading its case. Boeing spent $16.6 million lobbying last year and another $2.4 million so far this year.
Some of the biggest recipients of contributions from Lockheed are the biggest proponents of the F-22. In January, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), on the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), on the Defense Appropriations Committee, headlined a letter from 44 Senators to President Obama urging him to keep the F-22. Sen. Murray received $15,200 from Boeing last election, while Sen. Chambliss received $46,800 from Lockheed.
"Who is representing the public interest here?" said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. "The defense secretary who says we no longer need this fighter jet, or the members of Congress who insist we do and enjoy generous campaign contributions from the jet's makers? This is another argument for taking special interest money out of congressional campaigns."
The conference report coming up for a vote this week includes an additional $600 million for the procurement of four F-22 fighters and bars the use of these funds to shut-down the F-22 production line, as the Obama Administration had wanted. It also permits the Pentagon to "explore options to develop an export variant of the F-22/A."
As far back as June 2006, the Government Accountability Office, in a letter to Rep. Bill Young (R-FL), then-chairman of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, reported: "The Department [of Defense] needs to reevaluate the value delivered by continuing production of the F-22A past what it has already committed to by examining the likely future threat and risk environment, the funding it can make available relative to other demands, and the alternative ways to achieve air-to-air and air-to-ground military superiority."
The report summarizes its findings as follows, "in our opinion, the DOD has not demonstrated the need or value for making further investments in the F-22A program." Not only has the F-22 been criticized for its cost overruns and unacceptable readiness rates, Congressional investigators questioned the underlying mission the plane was intended to serve.
Secretary Gates cut funding for the production of the F-22 in his proposed defense budget for 2010. If the war supplemental bill is any guide, Congressional supporters of the F-22 will continue to appropriate money for the fighter jet even though the Secretary of Defense says we don't need it.
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Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Money in Politics
Tags: Exposing Corporate Power
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