DoD Buzz

The influence of the defense industry

The Sunlight Foundation put up a fascinating blog post this week matching DoD's top 10 contractors with the amounts they spent on campaign contributions and lobbying between 2009 and 2010. No surprise, the Pentagon's top firm is Lockheed Martin, but the company that spent the most on lobbying was Boeing, with almost $35 million, followed by Northrop Grumman, with almost $31 million. (And Lockheed was no slouch: It spent almost $26 million, according to Sunlight's data.)

Taken together, America's top 10 defense contractors spent $15,217,186 on campaign contributions over this period, according to Sunlight's chart. Collectively, they spent $177,156,664 on lobbying. It would be very interesting to try to figure out the value of the contracts all those companies held during that time, but that sounds like a mind-bending, calculator-melting exercise: For example, would you add up the total value of the F-35 program, or just the payments Lockheed has already received, or just the ones for 2010? As we've learned, you can make DoD numbers say almost anything you want.

Here's another sub-narrative: According to Sunlight's data, United Technologies Corp., whose Pratt & Whitney division makes the F135 engine for the F-35 Lightning II, spent $22.6 million on lobbying in 2009 and 2010. DoD's list puts General Electric, maker of the alternate F136 engine, as its number 15 contractor for 2010, so it's not in Sunlight's top 10 breakdown. But this Bloomberg story from January reported that GE spent $39.3 million on lobbying in 2010,  more than any other company. When you add all that together with contributions from GE's partner, Rolls Royce, it's easy to understand why the JSF engine war has waged so hot, so long.

Another great source for data about the influence of the defense industry is the Center for Responsive Politics. According to its information, the industry has already spent more than $34 million on lobbying so far this year.

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