Watchdogs raise issues with GOP Armed Services aide

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) took note of the payment in a post on Thursday, questioning Sauer’s role leading the oversight committee’s minority staff in light of her past position at Lockheed, one of the largest U.S. defense contractors. Sauer was a registered lobbyist with Lockheed from 2000 to 2010, according to Senate lobbying records.

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McCain has long been more than willing to take aim at the defense industry, and in particular Lockheed’s biggest program, the F-35 fighter. McCain is known for his floor speeches decrying the “military-industrial-congressional complex.”

“For at least a decade, McCain has had no peers in the Congress when it comes to oversight of major defense contractors,” POGO’s Executive Director Danielle Brian said in a statement. “I don't see how he can possibly continue this legacy given this staffing decision, and that is terribly disappointing.”

McCain’s office said in a statement that Sauer accepted the staff director position on a stop-gap, temporary one-year basis, after McCain made her an unsolicited offer for the job in February.

The statement noted that Sauer is completed divested from Lockheed and has no financial interest in the defense industry, complying with all Senate ethics guidelines.

“When Ms. Sauer accepted Senator McCain’s offer to lead his Armed Services Committee staff, she did so at her own financial detriment, as she was required to liquidate all remaining Lockheed stock and options in compliance with Senate Ethics Committee guidelines,” McCain’s spokesman said. “Senator McCain is very proud of Ms. Sauer’s long, distinguished career working on a range of important defense issues both in Congress and in the private sector.”

Sauer worked as a staffer in Congress for more than 20 years, including a stint with McCain, before she left for Lockheed Martin in 2000, according to her Linkedin profile.