May 10, 2012

Military Industry Lobbyists Manufacture Fake Tea Party Outrage Against Cutting Defense Pork

Military Industry Lobbyists Manufacture Fake Tea Party Outrage Against Cutting Defense Pork
Cord Sterling, a lobbyist for a group representing defense contractors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, speaks at a Tea Party-style event against cuts to wasteful defense spending.

Military industry lobbyists are using the Tea Party as props to fight back against defense cuts. Companies that benefit from tens of billions of taxpayer dollars, many of which are for unnecessary and wasteful programs, are attempting to co-opt political support as they desperately try to maintain their pork barrel contracts.

Take, for example, the “Coalition for the Common Defense,” an ad hoc project launched last fall to develop “grass-roots lobbying” to prevent “automatic budget cuts known as sequestration that will slash defense spending by as much as $600 billion over 10 years,” according to Roll Call.

The Coalition for the Common Defense has made a special effort manipulate the Tea Party to defend defense industry pork. The group claims that most Tea Party members agree with the arguments by defense contractors, that any defense cuts are dangerous for national security. The group has invited local Tea Party leaders to speak against the cuts, and lists a number of Tea Party organizations for outreach. The website even depicts pictures of Revolutionary War-era patriots throwing tea from ships in the Boston Harbor.

Republic Report took a look at who’s behind the campaign, and unsurprisingly, K Street lobbyists with weapons-maker clients and military industry companies are playing a pivotal role:

— Cord Sterling is the vice president for legislative affairs at the Aerospace Industry Association, a lobbying group that represents Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, and other defense industry corporations. He has participated in events for the Coalition for the Common Defense, thanking the group for helping stave off the looming defense cuts. The Aerospace Industry Association spent $2,181,383 lobbying the federal government last year.

— The campaign is managed by the Center for Security Policy, a think tank that is governed by a board of directors with deep ties to the defense industry. Board member Lt. Col. Marlin L. Hefti (Ret.) is a vice president at Van Scoyoc Associates, a lobbying firm that represents over two dozen defense company clients, including Lockheed Martin and Humvee manufacturer, the Renco Group. Board members J.P. London and Bruce J. Brotman are executives with other defense companies.

Will the defense company lobbyists prevail? GOP leaders in Congress have offered bills to cancel all of the defense cuts and instead impose larger reductions for other parts of government.

We hope no Tea Party members will be fooled by the campaign. Despite the polling released by the Coalition for a Common Defense, many vocal Tea Party leaders have expressed support for reducing the size of military spending along with shrinking the entire government. It also seems doubtful that the original Boston Tea Party activists would support billion dollar contracts with Boeing with cost-overruns of over 177,000 percent for spare parts. The patriots of the American war for independence raged against the British crown for forcing colonists to bear the costs of the Seven Years War with the French. Why protect Boeing’s pork?