Defense Industry Still Winning the War over Funding

Defense Industry Still Winning the War over Funding

The White House may have won the battle over the F-22, but it has not won the war over who controls our defense spending. While Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) today indicated he will not continue to push for funding F-22 on the heels of its defeat in the Senate, the House Appropriations Committee today passed an appropriations bill for 2010 with almost $2 billion in funding for a laundry list of additional defense projects the Administration wants to cut, including a fleet of new presidential helicopters, a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more C-17 cargo planes.

“Having spent more than $31 million in lobbying plus $3.2 million in campaign contributions during the first three months of 2009 alone, defense contractors seem to have as much influence in Congress over defense spending as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates or President Obama,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

Indeed, data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that the defense industry has spent lavishly and strategically on lobbying and campaign contributions in recent months. The table below lists the top 20 recipients in Congress of campaign contributions from defense contractors in the current and previous election cycles. It shows the vast majority of the contributions went to those best positioned to influence defense spending by virtue of their membership on either the Appropriations Committee or Armed Services Committee in their respective chambers.

Rep. Murtha, who is known for adding earmarks to defense spending bills that benefit large campaign contributors and send no-bid contracts back to his district in Pennsylvania, many of questionable value to the taxpayer, is by far the top recipient in Congress of defense dollars. Murtha has received about $643,000 over the last two election cycles, nearly $400,000 more than the second-highest recipient, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).

“The Senate vote yesterday was historic because senators stood up to the defense industry and acted in the public interest, but the F-22 was just one of the programs the Administration wants cut,” Edgar said. “What’s clear is that our defense policy for too long has been driven by the defense industry’s spending on lobbying and campaign contributions.”

The House Appropriations Committee passed a defense spending bill that includes $485 million for presidential helicopters, $674 million for three more C-17 transport planes, and $560 million for an alternative engine program for the F-35. The Pentagon halted production of the presidential helicopters in May after the budget estimates jumped from $.6.5 billion to $13 billion. The administration opposed funding the second F-35 engine on the grounds that it might slow down the entire program. And Gates cut funding for the C-17 in his proposed budget, saying that the cost of each plane had risen too much over the years.

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.

Top 20 Recipients of Contributions from Defense Industry

2008 and 2010 Election Cycles




Murtha, John P (D-PA)


Chairman, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee

Shelby, Richard C (R-AL)


Senate Appropriations Committee

Skelton, Ike (D-MO)


Chairman, House Armed Services Committee

Moran, Jim (D-VA)


House Appropriations Committee

Inouye, Daniel K (D-HI)


Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee

Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA)


Senate Armed Services Committee

Cornyn, John (R-TX)


Young, C W Bill (R-FL)


House Appropriations Committee

Udall, Mark (D-CO)


Senate Armed Services Committee

Collins, Susan (R-ME)


Senate Appropriations, Armed Services Committees

Sestak, Joe (D-PA)


House Armed Services Committee

Levin, Carl (D-MI)


Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

Dodd, Chris (D-CT)


Reed, Jack (D-RI)


Senate Appropriations, Armed Services Committees

Sessions, Jeff (R-AL)


Senate Armed Services Committee

Warner, Mark (D-VA)


Reyes, Silvestre (D-TX)


House Armed Services Committee

Paul, Ron (R-TX)


Visclosky, Pete (D-IN)


House Appropriations Committee

Granger, Kay (R-TX)


House Appropriations Committee

Source: Center for Responsive Politics (

Note: This table lists the top donors to the senator or his or her Leadership PAC. The companies themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the companies’ PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.