In the race to replace Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham on the coveted Appropriations Committee, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) appears to have the most support when it comes to campaign contributions from defense companies and contractors.
Cunningham sat on the panel’s Defense Subcommittee. But right now it is not known whether a member would automatically assume a Defense seat or whether a new member would be added to another subcommittee and an existing member would move into the defense position Cunningham left behind.
Calvert, however, is well-positioned to win the Defense Subcommittee slot. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) wants to keep the seat in Californian hands, and the state has a large concentration of defense operations.
Calvert also is known as a “good friend” to the aerospace industry as the chairman of the Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, according to several defense lobbyists. Calvert, now in his seventh term, is also a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
While the defense industry is not the main contributor to Calvert’s campaign, it has been Calvert’s fourth and fifth highest contributor in the past three cycles, after the real estate, energy and finance industries.
So far this cycle, defense contractors and companies, including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SAIC, United Technologies and GenCorp, have donated $13,000 to Calvert.
In 2004, Calvert received $24,000 from a group of donors that included Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SAIC, United Technologies and GenCorp, as well as BAE Systems, Alliant Tech Systems, DynCorp, Titan and Smiths Aerospace.
Rep. Joe WilsonJoe WilsonCrowd chants 'you lie' at Joe Wilson's town hall: report Military leaders warn of bleak future with short-term defense funding Democrats urged to be 'respectful' during Trump address MORE (R-S.C.), another contender for the seat, is lagging a little behind Calvert in the money chase but also is well-known and respected among defense industry advocates.
“People think he has been a hard worker,” said one lobbyist. “There is so much power coming out of California,” that Wilson should have a chance at the appropriations seat, he said.
“Wilson is very well liked by the House Armed Services Committee and seems to be a player,” the lobbyist added.
For the 2006 cycle, Wilson received $9,000 from United Defense, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and AAI Corp. In 2004, Wilson amassed $14,500 from United Defense, Northrop Grumman, Textron, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell and AAI. All those companies do business in South Carolina.
“It is natural for PACs to support candidates who support their points of view,” Wilson told The Hill. And that support should come before a candidate wins a committee seat, he added. When asked which defense companies operate in his district or nearby, Wilson was only able to name Belgium-based FN Manufacturing, light and heavy machine guns for the military.
“I do not focus on [specific companies],” he said. “I focus on the technology and what helps the war fighter.” But he acknowledged that those companies that bring jobs to the district are also worthy of support.
Wilson is making an aggressive bid for the open committee slot and has already contacted members of the GOP Steering Committee. But he has waited to make most of his pitches until the House finished with its end-of-the-year legislative business and plans to use the holiday break and downtime in January to campaign for the seat.
Last year, House leaders passed over Wilson, an assistant whip and loyal, team player, when several A-list committee seats opened.
Another member of the Armed Services Committee, Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), also expressed interest in the seat.
Bonner, who has served in Congress for just two terms, has received a paltry amount of donations from the defense industry. So far this cycle, Northrop Grumman cut him a check for $3,000, his only defense-related contribution. During the 2004 cycle, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Sparta Inc. gave him a total of $12,000. In 2002, when he first ran for the seat, Bonner received $6,500 from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Teledyne Technologies, SAIC and Kaman Corp.
Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), who also serves on the Armed Services panel, received $27,000 during the 2004 election cycle from 12 defense companies. Turner’s spokesperson refused to confirm or deny that his boss is vying for the defense appropriations seat. So far this cycle, Turner has received $7,000.
Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), is also vying for a seat on appropriations.
So far, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has not set a date for the steering committee to meet and choose Cunningham’s replacement.