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Defense Firms Begin Investing in Sen. John McCain

Image: Defense Firms Begin Investing in Sen. John McCain
(Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 29 Apr 2015 09:05 AM

For years, the nation's weapons makers have refused to give Sen. John McCain the same kind of campaign money they've given other top defense lawmakers, but that's all changing now that he's chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

The Arizona Republican has complained for some time about the "military-industrial-congressional complex," saying defense companies and their congressional allies push costly weapons programs, reports Politico, and the arms makers retaliated by refusing him large donations.

But after McCain took the committee chairmanship this year, industry PACs have responded, donating $66,000 in the first three months of this year, as much money as they gave him all of last year, when he came in at number 190 when it came to defense industry contributions. His total contributions for the first quarter have come at $1.6 million.

"It’s a matter of necessity: He’s the chairman," said one defense lobbyist, who requested anonymity. "I don’t think they’ve been as aggressive as they can yet … I’m sure it’s coming."

McCain is building a war chest for his upcoming re-election campaign, which could be one of the 78-year-old's toughest political battles.

The veteran senator's PAC contributions so far this year have come from companies like Raytheon, Boeing, and General Dynamics, and compare to those being received by McCain's counterpart in the House, Armed Services Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, who has brought in $75,000 in the year's first three months.

Supporters say that the extra money won't mean a change in McCain's policies, and that he's the same person who, in 2011, called defense spending policies "a windfall" for the defense industry but a "recipe for disaster" for taxpayers and the military.

McCain has also over the years been a key advocate for campaign finance reform, and says he is not changing his approach to that issue, despite the increased contributions.

"We’ve raised a lot more money from everybody, obviously, because I haven’t had to do that in a long time," he told Politico.

But McCain will be the one to push for more defense spending, and as chairman will draw up a new plan for weapons acquisition, saying he intends to make reform a priority in the new bill and stress accountability for cost overruns.

"I don’t think the industry is expecting any favors from McCain, but they recognize that he has huge power over their fate," said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant.

McCain received donations from nearly all of the largest defense contractors' PACs, with funding that includes $9,000 from Raytheon, $9,000 from Northrop Grumman, $5,000 from General Dynamics, and $2,500 each from Boeing and BAE Systems, Politico reported.

Another $5,000 each came from PACS for Textron, AM General, Orbital ATK and Emergent Biosolutions, as well as $2,600 from Austal USA.

The companies' CEOs are also donating heavily to McCain, reports Politico, with
Northrop Grumman's Wes Bush giving $5,200; AM General President and CEO Charles Hall, $2,000; and General Electric President and CEO Jeffrey Immelt chipping in $5,400.

At Raytheon, which is based in Tucson, Arizona, employees have also donated more than $22,000 in March, which includes $5,400 from CEO Thomas Kennedy.

Industry officials said that McCain's campaign has also been reaching out to them more this year, as defense PACs generally only donate after a campaign reaches out to seek contributions.

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Politics
For years, the nation's weapons makers have refused to give Sen. John McCain the same kind of campaign money they've given other top defense lawmakers, but that's all changing now that he's chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
john mccain, re-election, defense, donations, PACs
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2015-05-29
Wednesday, 29 Apr 2015 09:05 AM
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