• Politics

Obama Beats McCain in Defense Contributions

2 minute read
Mark Thompson / Washington

As if John McCain doesn’t have enough problems. It turns out that he can’t even rely on the big guns of the defense industry to come to his aid. Barack Obama’s campaign has pocketed $870,165 from defense-contractor sources, 34% more than the $647,313 in contributions McCain’s campaign received from the same sector. Traditionally, GOP candidates — who tend to favor higher military spending than their Democratic rivals — receive more donations from defense-company political action committees and employees. You might expect the tilt in McCain’s favor to be even steeper than normal, given his 23-year Navy career — including nearly six in a Hanoi prison. Add to that the fact that his father and grandfather both served as Navy admirals, and his extensive service on the armed services committee. Not to mention the fact that Obama has no military background at all.

But like most industries, defense contractors like backing winners. There is also scant difference between the two candidates on major Pentagon contracts. Both have promised to study the military budget with an eye toward scrapping, or scaling back, big-ticket items like the Army’s $160 billion Future Combat Systems. Beyond that, McCain has angered some big defense companies — most notably Boeing — with his wire-brush scrubs in the Senate of proposed Pentagon expenditures that have led, among other savings, to the scrapping of a Boeing-Air Force tanker deal. In fact, the resulting investigation ended with a Boeing executive and one from the Air Force going to prison for trading Pentagon favors for a job at the company.

“For reasons known only to these contributors, the traditionally Republican defense sector is supporting a Democratic presidential candidate who may be bad for business,” says Massie Ritsch of the independent Center for Responsive Politics, which came up with the numbers after analyzing Federal Election Commission data for the 2008 election cycle released October 27. “Defense contractors know that contributions lead to access, and that access can lead to government contracts.” And they’re going to keep coming if Obama wins Tuesday. “I don’t see defense spending declining in the first years of an Obama Administration,” one of the Democrat’s top defense advisers, Richard Danzig, said recently.

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