Fraud, Abuse, Waste: How Money in Politics is Weakening National Security
It’s no longer our debate
When all was said and done, the Bush administration had publicly offered 22 separate, disconnected reasons for war in Iraq. Think about that – there was no single consistent, public reason for a major U.S. military engagement. No chance for the American public to truly enter the debate.
This is a pattern in the modern American political landscape. The government no longer considers the American people to be critical to decision-making, even on issues that are quite literally a matter of life-and-death.
So how did this happen? How did Americans get cut out of the defense dialogue? There’s a good argument to be made that political corruption has played a big part — our government’s dependence on cash from special interests that profit off of war.
Let’s look at the people who make money from war. In 2012, the association representing makers of predator drones, AUVS, listed “Global Conflict – particularly U.S. and allied nation involvement in future conflicts” as one of the major drivers of “market growth.” In the boardroom, they’re calculating how much war they’ll need in order to make a profit next year.
These are the same defense firms that lobby our lawmakers every day. In the halls of Congress, their voice has effectively replaced that of the people. For instance, Republic Report found that AUVS doubled its lobbying spending in 2011, leading to approval of the use of drones over American skies.
This is the cycle that consistently leads to profit at the expense of public interest and wasteful defense spending.
A recipe for political corruption
In the last quarter of 2009, just as the United States was surging troops into Afghanistan, the top ten defense contractors upped their lobbying spending to $27 million. When America is at war, these companies make more money.
Elected by the defense industry
Campaign contributions play a big role here as well. Buck McKeon is the chairman of the Congressional committee that handles the military – the House Armed Services Committee. So far this election season, McKeon is the number one beneficiary of contributions from the Defense Aerospace and Defense Electronics industries and has already hauled in half a million dollars from the defense industry. Defense contractors even make huge donations to McKeon’s wife, who is running for a state legislative office in California (with no military budget, as far as we can tell). With all of this influence coming from the defense sector, it’s no wonder the voice of the people gets drowned out.
Retired military help the defense industry make a buck
Want more? Consider the “revolving door,” where former high-level officials hawk their connections to the back rooms of Congress. A blistering New York Times series in 2008 showed that these former officials are often hired to private firms for just one purpose: Use their connections to senior decision makers to hard-sell the firm’s products. What kind of products? In one case a strongly-worded letter from retired General Barry McCaffrey sent directly to General David Petraeus (do you have his address?) recommended the purchase of 5,000 armored vehicles, manufactured by the Eastern European company Defense Solutions, for use in Iraq. Was there any attempt to block this flagrant use of influence-peddling? Nope, the Times reports: “Within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.”
If we lose our democracy, we lose our power
If the American government is no longer accountable to the public, we have lost our democracy. If our military answers to the highest bidder, we have lost our power. The only way to maintain America’s strength is to get money out of politics. We need to let the facts decide, not the cash.
It’s time to declare: Our Military is Not For Sale
Get the facts about the effects of money in politics and defense spending
- Individuals and political action committees associated with the national defense sector contributed almost $24 million to political candidates and committees during the 2008 election cycle. Source: OpenSecrets
- The defense sector favors certain political actors such as Sen. Richard Shelby ( R-Ala.), who has received nearly $1.3 million from the military sector for his lobby efforts against Air Force budget cuts. Source: OpenSecrets
- Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who has served as the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, received a total of $1.4 million. Source: OpenSecrets
- The national defense sector itself has donated a total of $150.8 million, more than half of which went to Republican candidates. Source: OpenSecrets
- The main focus of defense lobbyists is to secure government defense contracts and earmarks, and to gain influence on the budget. Source: OpenSecrets
- Republic Report: Exclusive: PowerPoint Shows Drone Industry’s Lobbying Plan To Expand Over Domestic Law Enforcement Markets
- Republic Report: Analysis: DC Lobbyists, Military Contractors Donating to Congressman Buck McKeon’s Wife Are New To California State Politics
- Republic Report: Heritage Foundation Analyst Opposed Defense Cuts Without Disclosure of Defense Industry Funding
- Maplight Topic Page: Military