With Wars 'Winding Down' Pentagon Spending Is Up -- Thanks to Cash Payments to Pro-war Politicians
April 4, 2015
Julia Harte and Alexander Cohen / The Center for Public Integrity
The 2016 House and Senate budget proposals for war spending that moved toward a congressional floor vote this week were loaded up with tens of billions of dollars more than the Pentagon requested -- representing the largest increase lawmakers have attempted to add to the executive branch's requests for such funds. Since 2003, Republican lawmakers that have received a total $8 million in contributions from the political action committees and employees of top defense contractors.
Lawmakers Boost War Spending as the Wars Wind Down
A Pentagon budget account for the wars becomes an ever-larger slush fund
Julia Harte and Alexander Cohen / The Center for Public Integrity
(March 24, 2015) -- The 2016 House and Senate budget proposals for war spending that moved toward a congressional floor vote this week were loaded up with tens of billions of dollars more than the Defense Department requested, representing the largest increase lawmakers have attempted to add to the executive branch’s requests for such funds.
These moves -- which come as the Obama administration tries to wind down the US war in Afghanistan and to steer clear of a large new incursion in Iraq -- were pushed through by Republican lawmakers that since 2003 have received a total $8 million in contributions from the political action committees and employees of top defense contractors, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.
The proposals emerged from a convoluted congressional debate that pitted pro-defense hawks against federal deficit hawks, with the former -- backed by defense industry lobbying -- emerging triumphant.
The impetus for boosting war spending is that Congress enacted strict controls on regular Pentagon spending in 2011 and alleviated them only slightly last fiscal year, making a cut likely unless the Pentagon and the defense industry found new funds elsewhere.
Supportive lawmakers as a result turned to the only military account not subject to spending caps, namely the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), a funding category created in 2001 for temporary expenditures associated with combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the Center for Public Integrity reported in December, OCO over the years has become a slush fund for lawmakers and administration officials seeking to retain or expand military programs with no direct relationship to those wars.
But they've never sought to do it as blatantly or unashamedly as they did this month, when the Senate Budget Committee voted in a straight party-line vote to spend $96 billion in the OCO budget for 2016, and the House Budget Committee voted similarly to spend $94 billion. The amount appropriated for OCO in 2015 was $63 billion.
While no precise listing of the additional programs to be funded under the Republican proposals has yet been released, lawmakers who favored the OCO increases did not assert that the extra funds were needed only for the wars.
Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) were the principal sponsors of the successful Senate amendment to grow the OCO account. In urging a positive vote, Graham -- who is exploring a presidential run -- provided a long but imprecise list of security threats:
"Everything that you have in common, radical Islam hates, and if somebody doesn't do something about it soon, they will come our way again," he told the committee, adding that increases to the OCO account were needed "to defend the nation."
Signaling a difference of views among Republicans, the House Rules Committee on Monday night approved two versions of the OCO provision, requiring a final decision on the House floor. One sets OCO spending at $94 billion but requires $20 billion of that sum to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere, and another sets OCO spending at $96 billion while not requiring any offsets.
In total, the 67 current members of the House and Senate Budget and House Rules committees have received $15.6 million in adjusted dollars from the 2013 fiscal year top 75 defense contractors' PACS and employees, from 2003 through the end of the 2014 election season.
On average, the top defense contractors gave Republicans $264,244 apiece while Democrats and Independents received $189,881. The lion's share of contractor support went to the Senate Budget Committee’s 12 Republicans. The contractors' PACs and employees contributed $5.7 million to their campaigns and leadership PACs, or an average of $472,219 per lawmaker.
Republicans on the House Rules committee received a total of $2.3 million, making them the second-highest average recipients of contractor largesse.
Graham received $760,244. The other sponsor of the amendment to increase the OCO fund, Ayotte, has less seniority than Graham but is one of the top average recipients of defense contractor contributions, calculated on a two-year basis, among the 67 committee members. First elected to the Senate in 2010, she's raised $363,205 from the top contractors.
Two Senate Budget Democrats were also among the top 10 recipients of defense contractor contributions, though they voted against the Graham and Ayotte amendment. Hailing from a state that many defense companies call home, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia received $1,053,271 in adjusted dollars. He was followed by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the fourth highest recipient overall, who received $823,536 in adjusted dollars.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) disputed Graham’s claims during last week’s Senate Budget Committee hearing, saying the United States already spends more on defense than the next nine countries, and he rebuked his fellow senators for adding to the national deficit. "Republicans took us into protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and ran up our national debt by trillions because they chose not to pay for those wars," he said in a prepared statement.
The Center calculated campaign contributions in 2014 dollars from the top 75 defense contractors, as ranked in fiscal 2013, using campaign data compiled by The Center for Responsive Politics as well as data from the Federal Election Commission.
Contributions to House Budget and Rules, Senate Budget committee members from top defense contractors.
Members Who Voted for Increased War Spending.
Total contributions, adjusted for inflation, 2003-2014
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. -- $1,053,270
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio -- $873,210
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas -- $850,564
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. -- $823,535
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. -- $800,188
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. -- $796,643
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. -- $600,463
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. -- $567,110
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa -- $500,102
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. -- $462,942
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas -- $452,788
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho -- $429,713
Rep. Tom Price, R-Iowa -- $374,333
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. -- $366,507
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. -- $363,204
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. -- $357,383
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. -- $338,372
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. -- $309,474
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio -- $301,900
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. -- $297,817
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. -- $277,285
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind. -- $275,330
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio -- $262,836
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. -- $257,387
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. -- $255,270
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. -- $250,632
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. -- $250,451
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. -- $208,889
Rep. Diane Lynn Black, R-Tenn. -- $200,396
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. -- $177,205
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark. -- $171,569
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo. -- $159,697
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. -- $141,968
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky. -- $128,075
Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J. -- $117,075
Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind. -- $113,768
Rep. Vernon Buchanan, R-Fla. -- $105,479
Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass. -- $102,049
Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla. -- $99,287
Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis. -- $89,390
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. -- $83,258
Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C. -- $80,805
Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga. -- $80,167
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. -- $74,770
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. -- $73,614
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. -- $63,472
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. -- $63,071
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. -- $58,570
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. -- $54,400
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine -- $50,500
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif. -- $45,500
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. -- $44,084
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. -- $43,481
Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich. -- $36,600
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga. -- $34,500
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C. -- $34,300
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis. -- $27,250
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass. -- $25,750
Rep. Don Norcross, D-N.J. -- $20,350
Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis. -- $16,000
Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va. -- $14,701
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. -- $14,093
Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Mich. -- $8,950
Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va. -- $3,400
Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa -- $2,991
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark. -- $2,000
Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala. -- $2,000
Source: Center for Public Integrity analysis of campaign finance records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Federal Election Commission
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