Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) leaves a meeting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on November 28, 2018. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) leaves a meeting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on November 28, 2018. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

Military Contractors Quietly Boost Donations to GOP Backers of Trump's Coup Attempt

One critic of the weapons industry called it "another example of how our system for awarding money to contractors is often pay-to-play."

Kenny Stancil

After a brief lull in political spending following the January 6 insurrection, military contractors are ramping up PAC donations to members of Congress on committees with influence over the distribution of Pentagon funds, including dozens of GOP lawmakers who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

In the wake of former President Donald Trump's failed coup attempt, "nearly every major defense firm paused political contributions... and many expressed disgust at the sight of rioters storming the Capitol," The Hill reported Thursday.

BAE Systems described the incident as "deeply disturbing," and Boeing denounced the "violence, lawlessness, and destruction" that transpired.

"We will continue to carefully evaluate future contributions to ensure that we support those who not only support our company, but also uphold our country's most fundamental principles," Boeing said in a January statement. 

Despite their professed aversion to the right-wing attack on the halls of Congress and vows to suspend donations to anti-democratic politicians, The Hill noted, BAE Systems, Boeing, General Dynamics, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman "have quietly resumed" political giving to Republicans who—just hours after the deadly mayhem on Jan. 6—objected to the certification of President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

In May, weapons manufacturers even increased their spending on the GOP lawmakers who abetted the insurrection, the news outlet reported. Raytheon is alone among top U.S. military contractors in maintaining its pause on PAC donations.

According to The Hill's analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, arms dealers last month contributed to more than one-third of the 147 Republicans who endorsed Trump's anti-democratic revolt.

"The companies' reversal is another example of how our system for awarding money to contractors is often pay-to-play," Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, told the news outlet. "The size of agency budgets and programs should be based on performance, but too often it's clear that even these companies see it's based on access and corruption."

The timing of the military industry's change of heart was notable. "Defense firms resumed giving through their political action committees as Congress began work on the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to go through initial markups before the August recess," The Hill reported.

Biden has requested a $753 billion military budget for 2022, a slight increase over the current amount of funding Congress approved last year during the Trump administration. Weapons manufacturers, meanwhile, are heavily dependent on massive levels of government spending, which generates a substantial portion of their revenue.

According to Sludge's David Moore, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman each "received more than 85% of their 2019 revenue from government contracts." Moreover, he wrote, "some 50-60% of the Pentagon's budget goes to the weapons contractors who often make maximum PAC contributions to the campaigns of congresspeople who approve funding for and oversee their contracts."

Lockheed Martin—the nation's biggest military contractor and recipient of nearly $76 billion in government contracts in 2020—last month contributed to "political action committees affiliated with 25 of the congressional Republicans who objected to the Electoral College vote after bankrolling only a few of them in April," The Hill reported. The company said in a statement Wednesday that it would "continue to observe long-standing principles of non-partisan political engagement in support of our business interests," the news outlet added.

Boeing, which declined to comment on its change in policy, "resumed its donations last month as well, shelling out around $900,000 to political action committees," the news outlet noted. "The company donated to several of the 147 Republicans, giving $5,000 each to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.)."

Five thousand dollars is the maximum amount that corporate PACs, which are funded by executives and employees, are allowed to donate per election cycle to lawmakers' campaign accounts and leadership PACs. "While that's a relatively small figure in pricey modern-day elections," The Hill pointed out, "company executives and lobbyists have credited PAC donations for helping them get their message across to lawmakers."

Other arms dealers "made their first donations to election objectors in April then increased their contributions the following month," according to the news outlet. While Leidos said in a statement that its renewal of PAC donations in the second quarter of 2021 was accompanied by the introduction of new criteria that considers recipients' "integrity" and "character," BAE Systems, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman declined to comment on their decisions to resume handing out tens of thousands of dollars to Republican lawmakers, including ones who supported Trump's coup attempt.

The Hill detailed which of the GOP's insurrectionist lawmakers have benefitted the most from weapons manufacturers' revival of PAC donations:

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) is the biggest recipient of defense PAC donations among lawmakers who voted against certifying President Biden's victory over former President Trump. Calvert is the top Republican on the powerful House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, which determines funding levels for defense contractors. His campaign account and leadership PAC took in a combined $31,000, according to FEC filings.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, was the No. 2 recipient of PAC money, with $22,500. Her subcommittee manages contracts for pricey fighter jets that compete for funding, such as Lockheed Martin's F-35 and Boeing's F-15EX.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, also received significantly more than other lawmakers who voted to overturn the election.

According to, the military industry's 52 PACs gave approximately $14.4 million to candidates in the 2020 cycle, with about $7.8 million going to Republicans and $6.6 million going to Democrats. Those donations, The Hill noted, "outpaced other influential industries, including pharmaceutical manufacturers, oil and gas companies, commercial banks, and law firms."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

AOC Slams Conservative Dems Who Would Rather Skip Town Than Vote to Extend Eviction Ban

"We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have the majority."

Jake Johnson ·

'A Devastating Failure': Eviction Ban Expires as House Goes on Vacation and Biden Refuses to Act

"We’re now in an eviction emergency," said Rep. Cori Bush. "Eleven million are now at risk of losing their homes at any moment. The House needs to reconvene and put an end to this crisis."

Jake Johnson ·

With Election Days Away, Bernie Sanders Headlines Get-Out-the-Vote Rally for Nina Turner

In his keynote speech, Sanders said corporate interests are pulling out all the stops to defeat Turner because "they know that when she is elected, she is going to stand up and take them on in the fight for justice."

Jake Johnson ·

Bush, Pressley, and Omar Sleep Outside Capitol to Demand Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused, slammed her Democratic colleagues who "chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes."

Jake Johnson ·

As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·