Special interests buying political influence by financing campaigns is an ongoing crisis, profoundly undermining our democratic system. This corrupt practice is accepted -- in fact promoted -- by political insiders across the ideological spectrum. Accordingly we will publish reviews of the special interest political action committee (PAC) money received by members of Congress, starting with Colorado.
A PAC is a political committee set up by an interest group to make contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of candidates.
We will focus on one member per week in alphabetical order, starting with the House. This first week will be Representative Coffman.
Republican Congressman Mike Coffman represents parts of three counties - Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas, including the City of Aurora, where he lives. He is a veteran who serves on the House Armed Services, Small Business, and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. In 2014, Coffman’s Democratic opponent will be Andrew Romanoff, former Colorado Speaker of the House.
Coffman was first elected to Congress in 2008. In his Congressional career he has raised over $1.7 million dollars from PACs – 25% of his campaign contributions.
Forty-one PACs have each written checks totaling at least $10,000 to Coffman’s Congressional campaigns. Below is a list of his 22 largest PAC contributors (top 20 and ties).
Coffman’s membership on the Armed Services Committee, which approves the 595 billion dollar defense budget, helps explain the contributions from defense contractors, such as Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Honeywell.
Why would these contractors give money to a Congressional campaign? In 2012 Northrop Grumman had $22.7 billion in government sales, 90% percent of their business. Lockheed Martinhad $38.8 billion in government sales, 82% of their business. Raytheon’s sales to government were $17.9 billion, 73% of their total. Honeywell had $3.4 billion in sales to the government, 9% of their business. So these four defense contractors had a total of $82.8 billion in sales to the Federal government in 2012. Their political contributions, although large in the political world, are only .01% of what they receive from government sales.
Five leadership PACs -- Every Republican Is Crucial, New Pioneers PAC, Freedom Project, Prosperity PAC and Majority Committee PAC -- are also among Coffman’s top contributors. Leadership PACs are set up by other members of Congress who have leadership roles, or hope to have such a role. (It turns out that practically every member has one of these PACs).
The Congressmen behind these five “leadership PACs” are, respectively, Eric Cantor (House Majority Leader), Greg Walden (Chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee), John Boehner (Speaker of the House), Paul Ryan (Chairman of the Budget Committee), and Kevin McCarthy (Majority Whip).
In 2012 Northrop Grumman made $34,500 in campaign contributions to the leadership PACs that also gave directly to Coffman. The numbers for the other contractors are $38,000 for Honeywell, $35,000 for Lockheed Martin and $22,500 for Raytheon.
A special interest PAC that gives to a leadership PAC helps itself in two ways. It is able to funnel more money to its preferred candidate, and it obtains gratitude from the leaders and rising stars of the majority party.
The ultimate goal of the defense contractors is to obtain votes for approval of billions of dollars of purchases by government. Financing campaigns through contributions by self-interested parties is one reason why our defense spending exceeds the combined defense spending of the next ten largest spending countries, many of whom are allies.
Whether this amount of money is necessary for defense is a separate question, but the spending helps create immense income for contractors, who can then give a relatively small amount to the campaigns of their political supporters, creating an endless corrupt loop of contribution, appropriation, special interest revenue, contribution... Congressmen indirectly appropriate money to their own campaigns.
Looking at the money given by one industry to one Congressman highlights a systemic form of dishonesty and corruption.
By taking these contributions Representative Coffman is acting no differently than practically every other member of Congress. In fact this is the problem.
As always do not hesitate to write back with comments and questions, and please forward this email to anyone you think might be interested.
P.S. CleanSlateNow.org addresses the issue of special interest money corrupting our politics by supporting candidates who do not take PAC money.