Albion Monitor /News

Record Political Donations by Arms PACs

by Jenna E. Ziman

Soft money donations by arms merchants increased by 346 percent over its previous peak
The top 25 arms exporters gave record high contributions to political campaigns during the 1995-1996 election cycle, new research shows. According to the analysis by the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research, the arms exporters gave $10.8 million in Political Action Committee (PAC) and soft money donations during the 1995-1996 election cycle, up from $6.9 million during 1991-1992 election cycle.

The analysis, which updates the Institute's October 1996 report, "Peddling Arms, Peddling Influence," finds that nearly 40 percent of the funds poured in the last few months of the two year election cycle, between September and December of 1996.

The study, drawn from Federal Election Committee data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics, reveals arms exporter PAC funding was up by 12 percent from its recent peak, while soft money donations by arms merchants increased by 346 percent over its previous peak.

The report points to Lockheed Martin as the "Leader of the PACs" among arms exporters, accounting for more than $1 out of $5 contributed by major weapons exporting firms for the 1996 campaign. The Loral Corp. was the top giver of soft money among arms exporters.

"Lockheed Martin and its fellow arms merchants received billions of dollars in new subsidies from the 104th Congress. Their record contributions during the 1995-1996 are a clear sign that they will do everything in their power to keep these corporate welfare payments flowing," said William D. Hartung, a senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute.

For 1995, more than half of the $15 billion in arms sales made by U.S. companies were paid for by U.S.-government-backed grants, loans and cash payments, not foreign arms purchasers like Saudi Arabia or Taiwan.

In order to counter the special interest clout wielded by arms exporting firms in Washington, the World Policy Institute report recommends four major reforms:

  1. Passage of Code of Conduct legislation that would sharply limits U.S. arms exports to dictatorships, human rights abusers, and aggressor nations

  2. Sharp reductions in the current $7.5 billion per year in U.S. government subsidies for arms exporters;

  3. Strict limits on campaign contributions and spending, tied to a system of federal campaigns and the abolition of soft money donations; and

  4. An end to the "revolving door" that allows top officials to go back and forth between arms exporting firms and arms policy positions in government.

Jenna E. Ziman is a San Francisco-based freelance writer

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Albion Monitor May 3, 1997 (

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