The political action committees of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. contributed to the campaigns of Tea Party-aligned House Republicans just before the partial government shutdown that ended this week.
Lockheed, the largest U.S. contractor, was among the companies forced to furlough workers, while others had orders delayed or projects shut down as federal employees supervising the work stayed home. Federal agencies award more than $500 billion a year in contracts.
At least eight PACs contributed $15,500 during the last week of September to seven Republicans who helped lead efforts to defeat any spending bill that also did not defund or delay the president’s health-care law. That insistence on a tie to Obamacare resulted in a partial government shutdown starting Oct. 1.
The companies could have thought the donations “would play a constructive role” in getting “a seat at the table to voice their concerns,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign donations. “PACs and individuals give contributions for the purpose of rewarding behavior they approve of or enticing members to act consistent with their agenda.”
The House on Sept. 20 passed legislation to keep the government open in the new fiscal year beginning 11 days later, as long as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was defunded. On Sept. 26, 21 House Republicans insisted that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky block efforts to debate and amend the bill, lest the Democratic majority remove the anti-health care law provision. McConnell rebuffed that request and Senate Democrats did strip out the provisions defunding the law, which is designed to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
Seven of those 21 Republicans received PAC donations from federal contractors during that final week, Federal Election Commission filings show.
“These companies were undercutting their own bottom lines,” said Craig Holman, who lobbies on campaign finance issues for Public Citizen, a Washington-based advocacy group. “They should not have been playing the regular game of sending money to everybody.”
Lockheed’s spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, said the company “contributes to a wide variety of candidates from both political parties.” He declined to comment on any specific donations. A spokeswoman for Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon, Pam Erickson, didn’t respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
Business leaders have been critical of Congress over the shutdown and the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, which remain in effect under the spending resolution that reopened the government.
“The 2014 midterm elections will certainly be pivotal for our industry,” said Chip Sheller, a vice president of the Aerospace Industries Association, the Arlington, Virginia-based trade group whose members include Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. “National security is a house of cards, and our elected officials are on the verge of knocking down the whole lot by neglecting those companies who arm the warfighter with a technological edge over our enemies.”
Lockheed contributed $1,000 to Rep. John Culberson of Texas on Sept. 30. The same day, Raytheon’s PAC made $1,000 donations to three other letter-signers, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
Also on Sept. 30, the PAC of Chicago-based Boeing, the No. 2 contractor, donated $1,000 to Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona, another lawmaker who signed the letter.
“Boeing complies with all federal laws and regulations governing corporate contributions to elected officials, and a full accounting of our contributions are a matter of public record,” said Tim Neale, a spokesman.
Company executives visited or called lawmakers during the shutdown, urging them to reopen the government.
“Everybody is talking to Congress,” Stu Shea, president and chief operating officer of Leidos Holdings Inc., a Reston, Virginia-based science and technology solutions company, said. “We’re putting our entire way of life at risk.”
Holman said the PAC donations could have undercut the companies’ arguments.
“It’s not as if the Tea Party representatives saw any loss in campaign contributions coming from government contractors,” Holman said., “I was wondering why the CEOs seemed to have so little influence over the Tea Party Republicans. This could explain part of it.”