EADS North America taps its PAC

Four years after establishing a presence in the United States, the North American holding company of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS) has launched a PAC, which, although in its infancy, already is attracting high employee participation, according to company officials.

When EADS North America decided to vie for a share of the U.S. defense market and opened shop in 2002, a debate erupted in Washington about whether there should be any competition for the Air Force’s much-coveted new mid-air refueling tankers. Airbus, whose parent company is EADS, would have been the competition to Boeing Co.’s solution for the tankers. 

But four years and a thwarted Air Force-Boeing lease scandal later, the door to competition for the tankers has opened for EADS North America and so have several other high-profile, multibillion dollar contracts: the Joint Cargo Aircraft and the Army’s Light Utility Helicopter, which the company has won. EADS already is providing aircraft for the Coast Guard Deepwater modernization program.

The creation of EADS North America: Americans for Competition in Aerospace PAC is part of the company’s strategy to establish a strong foothold in the U.S.

“We have to be engaged and that engagement had to be more robust and it had to be more sophisticated than just sitting back to complain that somebody was doing something that was not competitive in nature,” said Sam Adcock, EADS North America’s senior vice president for government relations.

And even though the funds raised for the PAC so far pale in comparison to the PACs of U.S. defense giants who boast thousands of employees and deep roots in the political system, Adcock says that EADS employees are contributing to the PAC in high numbers (about 80 percent of eligible employees at the company’s headquarters in Arlington, Va., have given), a good sign for its future success. Only U.S. citizens can contribute to a PAC, and their contributions must be voluntary, according to federal election law.

Since April, the PAC has raised a little more than $27,000, doling out $23,500 of that money to nine candidates. The money was raised solely from employees at the EADS North America headquarters in Arlington, Va.

The company is in the process of soliciting all of its subsidiary companies, according to Adcock. EADS North America has 11 operating companies located in 30 cities and 15 states. On the whole, there are 1,000 employees who are eligible to contribute.

Adcock said he expected the PAC to raise about $80,000 to $100,000 on an annual basis.

The EADS PAC doled out $5,000 to Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) Straight Talk America PAC. McCain supports more competition for defense contracts in the U.S. market, and along with Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va) and other members of the panel, has successfully stymied House legislation seeking to stifle competition from international companies.

The PAC also cut checks to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) Senate Victory Fund PAC, which received $5,000, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who received $1,000, and Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Ala.), Defend America PAC, which received $5,000. The EADS PAC also gave to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Reps. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Terry Everett (R-Ala.) and Todd Akin (R-Mo.), as well as Bentley Rayburn, a GOP candidate for retiring Rep. Joel Hefley’s seat (R-Colo.), who received $250.