Boeing’s Ties to Washington Run Deep: Full List of Company’s Political, Lobbying Spending Shows Extensive Links
WASHINGTON (March 13, 2019) — As of Wednesday morning, the United States and Canada were the only two major nations still allowing the Boeing 737 Max 8 to operate in their airspace following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 on Sunday.
The European Union suspended all flight operations for the Max 8, as did China. However, the Federal Aviation Administration has taken no action in the wake of the crash that claimed 157 lives.
Boeing said in a statement that “based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.” According to The New York Times, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines fly the Boeing 737 Max 8—American Airlines has 24 of them, and Southwest has 34. Both airlines said they had found no reason to suspend operations.
The Ethiopian Airlines catastrophe followed a similar Max 8 crash in Indonesia last October, in which all 180 passengers died. The business as usual approach has come under criticism from Washington politicians accross the spectrum, highlighting the power of Boeing as a lobbying force in the capital as well as its cosy relationship with the regulator
“Boeing is one of the 800-pound gorillas around here,” Senator Richard Blumenthal told The New York Times in the aftermath of Sunday’s crash. The Connecticut Democrat called for the new Boeing aircraft to be grounded, as have Senators Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren and Mitt Romney, among others.
President Donald Trump, who fielded a call from Boeing’s chief executive Dennis Muilenburg Tuesday, tweeted his concerns about passenger safety after the crash. “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly,” the president wrote. “Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT.”
Boeing’s detractors have been a vocal minority. The full list of federal and state officials that received campaign contributions from Boeing can be searched here and runs to 14 pages. High-profile politicians who received donations include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, John Lewis and Steve Scalise, and Senators Michael Bennet and Chuck Grassley, among others.
A breakdown of Boeing’s 2018 lobbying budget, which can he found here, shows that last year the company spent a total of $15,120,000 on lobbying. Money was sent to the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, as well as to various government departments.
The Ethiopian Airlines crash has also illustrated the revolving door between Boeing, the FAA and the highest echelons of government. According to The Times, Boeing’s top government relations official was part of the Clinton administration, while FAA offices are housed inside Boeing’s principal U.S. manufacturing plants in Renton, Washington, and Charleston, South Carolina.
In 2015, at a congressional hearing, a Being executive said the company had an “arm of the FAA within the Boeing Company,” with 1,000 employees working with the regulator. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan, is a former Boeing executive.