Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Real Benefits of Being in Power

If you’ve ever wondered why billions of dollars are spent every other year getting people elected to federal office all you have to do, as “Deep Throat” told Bob Woodward, “follow the money.”

Republicans are out of power. That much is true. What doesn’t usually make the news is who else, as a result, is out of power and what it costs them.

But every once in awhile we get treated to a look behind the scenes. A look at what it is like to be on the loosing end of a wishbone pull (or two consecutive elections).

I noticed it in a piece in the DC insider blog called “The Hill.” It was a teaser article about how BAE, a British-owned corporation with business in the US, just lost one of its most lucrative government contracts to build all sorts of military trucks, both armored and unarmored, for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A contract that The Hill says is worth $3 billion.

BAE has been awarded this contract year after year. A contract that I liken to the Bell contract to build the Bell UH-1A helicopter for the Vietnam War. A helicopter that was the favorite target of the Viet Cong. Small arms fire could bring one down. In total, up to 1971, 4128 of them were lost due to enemy action or operational accidents.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, IEDs are responsible for many of our soldiers’ casualties. And they generally ruin the vehicles that they are riding in.

So building trucks for the military right now is a very lucrative business with, from what we are seeing in the news, a rosy future.

The BAE truck plant is in Texas. According to the Federal Ethics Commission database, BAE’s PAC has delivered $136,000 to Texas congressmen over the years, 9 of them Republicans ($111,500 total), and 4 of them Democrats ($24,500 total).

But now, Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corp. has won the military truck-building contract. Something that is generally unheard of. Usually the “incumbent company” gets the contract renewed. Or that’s what they say at The Hill.

“Defense analysts consider it extremely rare when an incumbent company is
not rewarded a renewed contract.”

Following the money in Wisconsin, Oshkosh Corp’s employee PAC has contributed a total of $52,450 to 4 of its 8 congressmen. 2 of them are Republicans ($20,750 total) and 2 of them are Democrats ($31,700 total). In the latter case, the lion’s share of that went to Congressman David Obey (WI - 7). David Obey is currently chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Indeed, Wisconsin’s entire delegation (75% of them are Democrats) is considered to be rising in power. Texas’ delegation, overwhelmingly Republican, is waning in its hold on power.

The net result, as intimated in The Hill’s posting, is a huge loss to companies that have been fierce allies and staunch monetary supporters of Republican office holders. Notably in this case, Texas congressmen.

Yes, having your way in Congress does have its percs. We get to have the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed. SCHIP. too. And it still looks like the Public Option in a healthcare reform bill seems to be still breathing. But in the end, where it must really hurt, not only office holders, but their corporate supporters, is where it really counts.

Right in their bottom lines.

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