By Roxana Tiron - 04/14/10 11:41 PM EDT
Defense giants are coming to the rescue in Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) toughest reelection race.
McCain, who faces a significant primary challenge this year from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R), has raised $40,500 from some of the country’s largest defense companies, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data.
Most of these companies didn’t offer McCain, the leading Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, donations during his last Senate campaign, in 2004, when he faced no opposition in the Republican primary.
During the 2008 presidential election, McCain also had a much harder time raising money from defense companies, particularly before the primaries. At the time, there was residual weariness among contractors who feared that he would win the election and then come down hard on them.
McCain has been the Senate’s most outspoken critic of Pentagon procurement practices and large defense contracts. The 2008 GOP presidential nominee has led annual crusades against congressional add-ons for defense contractors in the military spending bills.
McCain was instrumental more than six years ago in thwarting a lease deal between the Air Force and Boeing for a new tanker fleet. That deal landed two Boeing officials in prison for corruption.
Donations from defense firms to McCain pale in comparison to what other lawmakers on military committees have won.
For example, McCain’s House counterpart, Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), has raised $80,000 from defense companies even though he does not face a difficult reelection bid in 2010.
This cycle’s donations from defense companies are a significant boost from McCain’s previous reelection campaign.
In 2004, McCain raised a total of $7,000 from Raytheon, Honeywell and Textron, which all have operations in his home state.
Both Honeywell and Textron also have large commercial business, however, and are not just concentrated in defense work.
Raytheon and General Dynamics have major operations in Arizona. BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, United Technologies (which also has commercial business) and Lockheed Martin also operate in the state.
McCain has not been afraid to challenge the contracts of Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest defense company by revenue.
Most recently, he helped the Obama administration cap the production of the F-22 fighter jet, produced by Lockheed, to 187. He has also decried the spiraling costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, another Lockheed project.
Boeing, which has often been a target of McCain’s ire, has not donated to his campaign.
Boeing’s rival for the $35 billion tanker contract, EADS North America, however, has given McCain’s campaign $5,000.
When the U.S. arm of the European aerospace and defense conglomerate first opened its political action committee (PAC) in 2006, McCain sent back $5,000 in donations.
McCain raised $45,000 from defense companies during the total 1998 reelection cycle.
But in the years following that reelection, McCain’s contributions from defense companies were few and far between.
PACs of defense companies normally do not give to senators during the periods in which they are not ramping up for reelection, but they do donate to lawmakers with power on the military committees on almost a yearly basis, according to federal records.
Defense insiders who talked to The Hill on condition of anonymity said that most of the PAC money goes to incumbents, not challengers. And in McCain’s case the added bonus is that he is a strong supporter of national security and defense spending in general, despite his watchdog role, defense sources said.
“Sen. McCain is obviously a respected leader on national security and defense issues, and has been for decades,” Brian Rogers, McCain’s campaign spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “He’s also led the fight to root out waste, fraud and abuse in defense contracting and pushed Pentagon procurement reform to ensure that our armed forces have the best equipment possible at the best value to American taxpayers.”
Hayworth announced that he had raised $1 million so far, but his campaign did not respond to requests for comment on whether he received money from defense contractors. The deadline for campaigns to submit fundraising numbers for the first quarter to the FEC is Thursday, though data won’t be available for several days.
During his congressional tenure, Hayworth had some contributions from defense contractors, such as Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, Raytheon, General Dynamics and United Technologies. In 2006, his last reelection race for his House seat, he raised $23,000 from these defense companies, including SAIC.