Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Washington is For Sale and the Defense Industry is Buying

Updated October 2015

There is a strong profit motive to war, even the limited engagement currently taking place in Syria - Iraq against ISIS.  In this posting, I'd like to examine the role of the defense industry in Washington politics, particularly, the use of their profits to sway policy.  

According to Open Secrets, while the defense industry is not one of the largest contributors to politicians, it is one of the most powerful sectors with individuals and political action committees associated with the defense sector contributing more than $27 million to political candidates during the 2012 Presidential Election Cycle.  Since 1990, the sector has contributed more than $220 million to politicians with 57 percent of the contributions going to Republican candidates and 43 percent going to Democratic candidates.  

Let's start by looking at the market sector totals for campaign contributions during the current election cycle.  Here is a list showing which sectors of the economy are the most active contributors to the federal political process in 2015 - 2016:

Note that defense comes in thirteenth place, spending a tiny fraction of what is donated by the finance, law and health sectors.

On the lobbying side, the defense industry has spent far more than they have spent on donations to specific candidates; in each year from 2005 to 2014 (and most likely 2015 as well), defense has spent over $100 million on getting Washington to see things their way as you will see later in this posting.

Let's look at more details on the contribution side first.  Here is a graphic showing the top defense corporate contributors for 2015 - 2016:

 Here is a bar graph showing the trends in contributions for each election cycle since 1990:

Total contributions have risen from $7.18 million in 1990 to a peak of $27.654 million in 2012 and have hit $6.9 million thus far at this early point in the 2016 election cycle. 

Here is a bar graph showing the split between Republicans and Democrats:

In only four election cycles (1992, 1994, 2008 and 2010) did the Democratic candidates benefit from more than half of the total contributed by the defense industry.  Note that in 2008, the split was almost even with Democrats receiving 51 percent of the total.

Now, let's look at the all-important lobbying side.  This is where the defense industry really shines. The main issue for the defense sector is securing government contracts and influencing the defense budget and various earmarks for their own gain. 

Here is a bar graph showing the annual spending on lobbying by the defense industry:

Total spending so far in 2015 has reached $95.276 million with $69.74 million coming from the defense aerospace industry subsector and the remainder split between the defense electronics subsector and the miscellaneous defense subsector.  Spending on lobbying peaked in 2008 when the defense industry forked over $152.3 million to get Washington to see things their way.  

The defense industry has a huge number of lobbyists as shown on this graph:

In 2014, there were 835 lobbyists, down from a peak of 1285 back in 2007.  In 2015, 67.2 percent of defense industry lobbyists are revolvers, that is, they have previous insider connections with the federal government of one form or another.

In closing, let's look at a couple of specific examples; Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the number one and two largest defense contractors in the United States:

Arms Sales: $35.7 billion
Total Profit: $2.9 billion
Employees: 132,000
NASA and the Defense Department account for 80 percent of annual sales

2014 Election Cycle Contributions: $4.104 million
Lobbying: $$14.582 million in the 2014 cycle (16th out of 3514)

Here is a graph showing Lockheed Martin's lobbying expenditures from 1998 to the present:


Arms Sales: $31.4 billion
Total Profit: $2.9 billion
Employees: 160,500
Boeing is a top recipient of government loan guarantees through the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

2014 Election Cycle Contributions: $3.523 million (48th out of 15,802)
Lobbying: $16.8 million in 2014 (10th out of 3514)

Here is a graph showing Boeing's lobbying expenditures from 1998 to the present:

As a Baby Boomer, I can clearly recall hearing about the dangers of the rising strength of the military-industrial complex, an issue that we were warned about in President Eisenhower's farewell address in 1961 where he states:

"Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together." (my bold)

If we wonder why Washington, particularly the Republican Party, leans toward military intervention, I think that seeing how much the defense industry spends on campaign donations and lobbying should give us some explanation.  With Washington being for sale, it looks like President Eisenhower's warnings of five decades ago have gone unheeded or unnoticed by those in powerful places.

Consider us warned.


  1. This is just one part of the problem. The real problem is that the US is no longer a democracy but is controlled by money. Money buys both sides and over time they have chipped away at everything that made America once great. Everything around us is being propped up, money is just printed and has nothing backing it other than the military. But has the military keeps losing wars it will lose its luster and then the money will become useless. But when happens next? I don't know but honestly I would prefer that things keep getting propped up and we go along as long as we can pretended everything is great and we're #1. There is nothing we can do fix it and honestly even if you got some 5 or even 10 of the billionairs to try to push things back it woudn't be enough, we have gotten too far off track. To me the only thing we can do is pretend everything is fine. Put it like this if you knew you had 1 day to live would you want to know and go through all the emotions and stress of nothing your life was about to be over or would you rather go about normal activity right up to the end?

  2. Truth is, the military industrial complex is controlled by big finance, multinational banks who subscribe to the political doctrine of Zionism. Zionism is not a race, nor is it a religion. It is a wicked political movement that seeks world domination. And using the US military to achieve this domination is dangerous to America.