June 13, 2012

Sen. Blumenthal Demands Answers From Northrop Grumman Following Our Scoop

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Earlier this week, Republic Report exclusively reported on a $500,000 bonus awarded to a Northrop Grumman lobbyist, named Thomas MacKenzie, who was hired to become a top staffer overseeing the military budget in the House Armed Services Committee. The unusual size of the bonus, and MacKenzie’s role in deciding how billions of dollars in taxpayer money are spent on projects contracted to his former employer, raised eyebrows with several experts.

Following our report, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is demanding answers. Blumenthal said he is “concerned about the integrity of the Defense Department budget if it is tainted by any whiff of a payoff.” The National Journal and Connecticut Post report:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on Tuesday demanded that Northrop Grumman Corp. “explain to Congress and the American public” the bonus paid to one of its executives right before he quit to become a House Armed Services Committee staff member.

Northrop, the parent of soon-to-close Norden Systems in Norwalk, paid Thomas MacKenzie a “severance and bonus” of $498,334 in 2011 before he joined the staff of the committee that oversees defense contracts, according to his annual ethics report on file in the House. […]

At the least, Blumenthal said, “The perception is horrible, at a time when the credibility of Congress is certainly in question. I’m concerned about the integrity of the Defense Department budget if it is tainted by any whiff of a payoff.'”

As we reported, Congressman Buck McKeon (R-CA), MacKenzie’s boss as chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has maintained a tight relationship with Northrop Grumman. He has received the most donations from Northrop Grumman out of anyone in Congress, and McKeon has stepped up to defense billions of dollars in Northrop Grumman-related programs that the Pentagon has even called for cutting. Northrop paying a lobbyist a six figure bonus to become a top policymaker under McKeon, however, is a step that may be well beyond what most special interests make to influence Congress.

Another McKeon committee staffer, Robert Lee Simmons II, defended MacKenzie, calling him “the kind of person we would want to have in his job.”

Craig Holman, an expert on the lobbying industry for Public Citizen, told the Connecticut Post that the “big numbers of Mr. MacKenzie’s compensation look extremely suspicious. That’s quite a bonus.”

Republic Report will continue to report on the revolving door and how lobbyists and special interests burrow into government to manipulate public policy.