Most defense contractors paused their contributions to lawmakers after the Jan. 6 incidents at the Capitol, but the same companies have been resuming their donations and some have increased their contributions to politicians who objected to the results of the 2020 election and who are on committees in control of Pentagon spending.
In May, defense contractors donated money to more than one-third of the 147 Republicans who had objected to the Electoral College's vote for President Joe Biden, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings, reports The Hill.
"The companies' reversal is another example of how our system for awarding money to contractors is often pay-to-play," Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, commented. "The size of agency budgets and programs should be based on performance, but too often it's clear that even these companies see it's based on access and corruption."
The money started coming in through the defense firms' political action committees while congress started working on the annual National Defense Authorization Act. Biden has requested $753 billion for defense for 2022, increasing the numbers slightly over this year. The defense funding bill is likely to undergo initial markups before Congress takes its August recess.
The defense spending package accounts for most of the leading defense contractors' revenue. Lockheed Martin got $74 billion in prime contracts last year while Raytheon Technologies got $26 billion and General Dynamics received $23 billion.
In May, Lockheed Martin donated to the PACs affiliated with 25 Republicans who had objected to the Biden vote, after spending for only a handful of them in April. Boeing resumed donations in May as well, spending about $900,000 in donations to PACs and donating to several of the election-objecting Republicans, including $5,000 each to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.
Raytheon still has its PAC donations on hold, but Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, and Leidos all increased their donations to objectors in May, after first starting to donate again in April.
Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., the top Republican on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, has gotten the most from donations to his campaign account and leadership PACs, which took in a total of $31,000 in May, the FEC filings show. His subcommittee determines the funding levels for defense contractors.
Meanwhile, Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, who is the top Republican on the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, landed in second place in donations, netting $22,500 through her PACs.
Her subcommittee is the one that manages the contracts for fighter jets like Lockheed Martin's F-31 and the Boeing F-15EX.
Other top donations went to Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, who is the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, who is on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.
Corporate PACs can donate $5,000 per election cycle to lawmakers’ campaign accounts and leadership PACs, and Kristin Brackemyre, director of PAC and government relations at the Public Affairs Council, said PACs are an "important tool companies are using within their overall government relations engagement strategy."
Defense company PACs gave more than $14 million in the 2020 cycle to lawmakers' fundraising committees, donating more to Republicans. Their donations were more than the ones coming from other industries such as drugmakers, energy companies, banks, and attorneys.
There are still some major companies that are not yet donating money to Republicans who objected to the Electoral College vote, including AT&T, Comcast, Home Depot, Amazon, and Walmart. JPMorgan Chase & Co. this month joined the list, saying it will not donate to objectors at least through the 2022 midterm elections.
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