Lee Fang / The Intercept & Fredreka Schouten and Mary Troyan / USA TODAY – 2015-07-31 01:29:37
Senator Lindsey Graham’s Pro-War
Super PAC Bankrolled by Defense Contractors
Lee Fang / The Intercept
(July 30, 2015) — The Super PAC supporting the presidential campaign of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised $2.9 million through the end of June, a significant portion of which came from defense contractors that stand to gain from Graham’s advocacy for greater military intervention around the world and increased defense spending.
As Graham tours the early primary states, he tells voters that he is running to boost US defense spending. “My goal is to make sure the next president of the United States, the next generation of war fighters have the capability and capacity to do the job required to keep us free,” Graham said in South Carolina earlier this year.
Graham’s Super PAC, called “Security is Strength,” received $500,000 from billionaire Ron Perelman, whose company MacAndrews & Forbes owns AM General, the manufacturer of Humvees and other products for the military. In December of last year, AM General won a $245.6 million contract with the Army.
The Super PAC also received $25,000 from Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, another major defense contractor. Notably, Graham has been a stalwart proponent of the Export-Import Bank, a federally charted lending institution that has approved $1 billion in loans to GE in fiscal year 2014.
“If I were a defense contractor, I’d be big time for Lindsey Graham, because I’ve been forward-leaning on rebuilding our military,” Graham told USA TODAY when asked about why defense contractors have been tapped to help lead his fundraising team. “People come to you because of your positions,” Graham added.
Graham Turns to Federal Contractors
For Help with White House Bid
Fredreka Schouten and Mary Troyan / USA TODAY
WASHINGTON (June 11, 2015) — — Sen. Lindsey Graham may be a long shot for the White House in 2016, but his list of top presidential fundraisers underscores the South Carolina Republican’s clout in Washington no matter the outcome of the presidential race.
Three of the eight national finance co-chairs who recently signed on to raise money for Graham’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination oversee firms that have contracts with the US Defense Department. Graham, who sits on the Senate’s Armed Services and Appropriations committees, is a big player in guiding US foreign and military policy. Many of his top-tier fundraisers also are aligned with Graham’s muscular defense of Israel.
A fourth top fundraiser, Arkansas businessman Scott Ford, recently appeared alongside actor Ben Affleck and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates at an appropriations subcommittee hearing chaired by Graham. At the hearing, which drew heavy media attention because of Affleck’s star power, Ford touted his coffee business in Rwanda.
Graham, who won re-election to a third term last November, is one of the best-known defense hawks in Congress. He has advocated an aggressive defense posture, including deploying combat troops in the Middle East to fight Islamic State terrorists.
Graham said he welcomes the support of executives with defense interests.
“If I were a defense contractor, I’d be big time for Lindsey Graham, because I’ve been forward-leaning on rebuilding our military,” he told USA TODAY on Thursday. “People come to you because of your positions.”
In a crowded GOP field, Graham also stands as the candidate forcefully backing the Export-Import Bank, which guarantees loans for foreign buyers of US products. Some conservative groups, including organizations aligned with the powerhouse Republican donors Charles and David Koch, are urging Congress to kill off the 81-year-old agency by letting its charter expire at the end of this month.
One of the top beneficiaries of the bank’s activities is General Electric, whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt signed on last week to raise money for Graham. GE makes everything from nuclear reactors and ultrasound machines to refrigerators and engines that power military and commercial jets. In fiscal year 2014, the bank approved $1 billion in loans and loan guarantees for companies around the globe to buy GE products, government data show.
GE also was awarded nearly $2.2 billion in defense contracts that year, though company officials note that the military work accounts for only a small fraction of the conglomerate’s revenues.
In a statement released by Graham’s campaign, Immelt said he was helping Graham because he “understands that America has an indispensable role to play in creating the stability and building the institutional capacity that are essential for growing markets and abiding security.”
GE operates a power turbine plant in Greenville, S.C., and Graham told The Greenville News this week that he lobbied the Iraqi government to buy billions in turbines produced by GE plants in South Carolina and France. “GE has a pretty big military portfolio,” Graham added. “Well, name one person who has been more aggressive about rebuilding a declining military.”
GE spokeswoman Deidre Latour described Immelt’s support this way in an interview with USA TODAY: “This was a personal decision for our chairman and CEO. Lindsey Graham is broadly supportive of policies that support business, including trade and Ex-Im.”
The list of fundraisers also underscores Graham’s robust defense of Israel as a key ally in the Middle East. They include Ronald Perelman, a noted philanthropist and investor, who has donated millions to Jewish causes.
Perelman has close ties to Democrat Hillary Clinton, but in a statement issued by Graham’s campaign, Perelman said he was backing the South Carolinian because the country needs “leaders with strategic purpose and moral clarity to confront” the conflicts “raging in the Middle East and around the world.”
Perelman’s management firm, MacAndrews & Forbes Inc., also has a significant financial stake in US military policy. It owns AM General, an Indiana-based contractor that has built more than 300,000 Humvees for the US military and wants to build many more. It is one of three companies competing for a massive Pentagon contract to build the “joint light tactical vehicle,” which will replace the Humvees previously built by AM General.
In December, AM General added another contract with the US Army worth $245.6 million for 2,200 more Humvees and parts.
Last year, MacAndrews & Forbes’ political action committee contributed $5,000 to Graham’s re-election campaign — part of more than $161,000 the company’s PAC gave lawmakers, many of them on committees that oversee the military and government spending, data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics show.
Perelman’s interest in Graham is about Middle East policy, not business, according to a spokeswoman.
Perelman’s “support is driven by a desire to ensure a robust discussion on critical foreign policy issues, especially the pending accord with Iran and US support for Israel,” his spokeswoman Christine Taylor said.
Not all of Perelman’s financial interests stand to benefit from a Graham presidency. Another part of his portfolio is Scientific Games Corp., an online lottery and gaming company. Graham is a leading proponent of legislation to ban online wagering, which would hurt Internet gambling interests if it became law.
(Graham’s bill is supported by another prominent billionaire and political donor, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson has not yet publicly backed a 2016 presidential candidate, but his brother, Massachusetts-based businessman Lenny Adelson, has signed on as one of Graham’s “Northeast” bundlers.)
Safra Catz, the Israeli-born CEO of Oracle, also is among Graham’s eight national finance co-chairs. The software giant has been awarded more than $146 million in prime federal contracts during the 2013, 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, according to USASpending.gov, a clearinghouse for federal contracts and grants. The lion’s share involved Defense Department contracts.
Catz declined to comment through a company spokeswoman.
Attempts to reach Ford, the Arkansas executive who testified recently before Graham’s appropriations panel on foreign aid, were unsuccessful. An aide said he was out of the country.
Ford, the former CEO of wireless provider Alltel, now oversees Westrock Coffee. The company has operations in several East African countries, including Rwanda, which was split apart by civil war and mass genocide in the early 1990s.
The company and its Rwandan arm received $19.4 million in insurance coverage in 2013 through the Overseas Private Insurance Corporation, a little-known federal agency that sells insurance to US businesses operating in politically risky countries.
Ford cited the agency’s insurance in his testimony. His company, he said, employed nearly 1,300 people in Rwanda and Tanzania last year and buys coffee from more than 60,000 farmers.
The OPIC’s administrative functions are funded by an international aid account that Graham oversees as an appropriator. Thursday, Graham told USA TODAY he’d like to do even more to help entrepreneurs such as Ford start businesses and improve struggling economies.
“When he jump-starts a business through the private sector and increases the wealth of the Rwandan people, it takes pressure off the foreign ops budget,” Graham said of Ford. “I want to do more of that. I want to create accounts and reward people like Scott and find capital for them.”
Contributing: Rudolph Bell, The Greenville News
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