Myth: “The defense industry lobby buys politicians”

November 22, 2013

This article was originally published by Zbigniew Mazurak on November 18, 2013 and subsequently posted by


For some years, some people have erroneously believed and claimed that defense budgets are determined by, and weapons programs initiated at the behest of, defense contractors, who supposedly buy Washington politicians’ votes. Anti-defense organizations like POGO have been spreading that propaganda for decades.

Recently, pseudoconservative sites like LibertyNews and the DailyCaller have been spreading that blatant lie too, claiming that the mythical “defense lobby” has essentially bought the votes of those Senators who voted for authorizing strikes on Syria. As “evidence”, they claim that the Senators voting for the strikes on Syria have received 83% more in contributions from defense contractors than Senators voting no.

But if you look beyond the deadlines – and the DailyCaller libelously shouts “WARBUCKS FOR WARMONGERS” – and look at the details, a completely different picture emerges. The defense industry has not bought these Senators votes, and if any “defense lobby” exists in America, it is woefully ineffective and far weaker than other lobbies.

LN and TheDC complain that pro-war-voting Senators have, on average, received $72K each from the defense industry in the last 5 years (2007-2012). Oh my gosh, $72K in five years!

Although LN and the DC want you to think it’s much, it isn’t. It’s peanuts, especially over 5 years ($14,500 per year on average, hardly George Soros money).

But some Senators voting AGAINST strikes on Syria, like Joe Barrasso of Wyoming, have received contributions ABOVE that average from the defense industry: $86K in Barrasso’s case. In fact, by LN’s and the DC’s own standards, even those Senators voting “no” on war have received handsome contributions from the defense industry: $40K on average.

But in reality, neither $86K nor $72K nor $40 K nor even $100K is George Soros money. It’s peanuts, especially over 5 years and especially given how much other industries and lobbies contribute to Washington politicians every election cycle.

Because, you see, when one looks at the defense industry’s TOTAL contributions to politicians, they are meager compared to the scores of millions of dollars that other industries and lobbies dole out.

A full list of all financial contributions to all 535 members of Congress in the 2012 election cycle (therein counted from January 1st, 2011, to December 31st, 2012) is available here. Basically, it says how much money which industry contributed to Washington lawmakers in the last cycle.

A close look at that list reveals just how tiny the defense industry’s muscle is.

The largest contributor sector of the defense industry is the defense aerospace sector: $9,113,892 in contributions. Defense electronic contractors contributed $6,083,951, defense shipbuilders $2,693,281, defense services $1,605,374, and other sectors of the industry no more than $615,014 each.

By comparison, here’s how much other, much more powerful lobbies contributed:

And yet, MapLight, LN, and the DC make a lot of noise about Senators receiving $72K on average from the defense industry, when many other industries make contributions measured in MILLIONS each election cycle to each of its favorite politicians!


The defense industry is a weak player in Washington and its money politics game. It is a baby chimp compared to the 800-pound gorillas that other industries and lobbies are.

By far the most powerful interest group/lobby in America are lawyers – “ordinary” lawyers and law firms contributed over $82 mn to Congressional politicians in the last election cycle alone. On top of that, corporate, trial, and other lawyers contributed still further dozens of millions of dollars.

School and college employees have the second-biggest financial muscle in politics – they contributed $27,402,329 in the last election cycle. Lobbyists and PR people are third, at $25,324,387 in contributions. Security brokers and investment companies are not not far behind, at $24,844,329. A group termed “other physician specialists” by MapLight is fifth, at $20,220,876. Physicians are sixth, at $19,698,565.

On top of them, there are – as shown above – many, many industries and interest groups which each contributed over $9 mn in 2011-2012 – usually over a dozen million dollars – far more than the aerospace industry – the relatively wealthiest part of the defense industry – could muster. Total contributions from all sectors of the defense industry were at about $21 mn in 2011-2012 – again far behind the contributions of the above-mentioned other sectors, especially the legal/law firm sector which alone contributed over $100 mn to Congressional politicians.

“Ordinary” lawyers and law firms contributed FOUR TIMES as much to Congressional politicians as the entire defense industry! School and college employees (not to mention the entire education sector) and the medical profession both also outperformed the entire defense industry in contributions, and by a wide margin.

Similarly, single-issue PACs advocating a dovish, pacifist foreign policy spent over $600K in the last election cycle, while PACs advocating a strong defense spent a meager $500. Just five hundred bucks.

Want to know why? Because the “military-industrial complex”, which supposedly buys politicians so that they vote for weapon programs the military supposedly doesn’t need and for wars, is a myth. It doesn’t exist and never did, Dwight Eisenhower’s foolish ramblings to the contrary notwithstanding.

And there’s more evidence that the “military-industrial complex” is a myth. Since 2009, when President Obama came into office, defense cuts now totalling over $1.5 TRILLION – over one and a half TRILLION dollars – have been programmed or already implemented. These include:

In total, this adds up to $1.554 trillion dollars in defense cuts already implemented or programmed to occur thru FY2022 – and there’s no indication they won’t happen, since Congress is utterly unable (or unwilling) to even cancel sequestration, yet alone the previous defense cuts.

And even further, under the cuts currently scheduled (mandated by the BCA), just like during all previous rounds of defense cuts, WEAPON PROGRAMS – the things the defense industry makes money on – are and will be the DOD’s favorite targets, as they are the by far the easiest thing to close. Whenever there are defense cuts, weapons programs and other modernization funds are everyone’s favorite pots of money to raid.

By contrast, Congress has strictly PROHIBITED the DOD from even PROPOSING to close unneeded bases, reform the military’s healthcare and retirement programs (which would involve modestly increasing healthcare plan premiums), or significantly reduce the number of troops.

If there really was a “military-industrial complex”, you would have rarely seen ANY weapon programs closed. Yet, since 2009, over 50 have been killed, and more will probably be targeted for closure in the years to come.

Because there is no “military-industrial complex” in America. It’s a blatant lie.

Shame on those who spread that lie.

The opinions expressed on Ziggy’s Defense Blog do not necessarily reflect those of

  1. Is it the Lawyers? Bankers, military lobbyists? Who is to blame for this mess we are in? Maybe, all? These are all high powered, highly paid War mongerers. Almost nothing makes as much money as war, and sociopathic leaning characters know this; and they want a piece of the pie. They are all lying and stealing. Heartfelt, I don’t like putting people down all together in one group, but this comes close. I don’t believe all elites are superior, or that all poor people are losers. I just know that it is a fact that the American War Machine has no peer in size and strength. and for what? I’m stunned that people are afraid of so many things. this can interfere with your life, and happiness. The Dirty Truth is that our country is flagging quickly, whatever the end of our republic, we’ll be out of breath. That’s why it’s important to fight back now, to build critical relationships and neighborhood infrastructure. To learn to love our neighbors, and pull back together like this country used to be. We’ve done it before, we can do it again. “Fight like a Brave! Don’t be a slave! No one can tell you that you’ve got to be afraid!”(Red Hot Chili Peppers)

  2. David S Lewis

    The defense industry actually buys polticians. From

    Remember this is 2012 donations.

    Top 20 Members
    Candidate Amount
    McKeon, Buck (R-CA) $566,850
    Brown, Scott (R-MA) $283,288
    Ruppersberger, Dutch (D-MD) $233,850
    Young, C W Bill (R-FL) $230,260
    Brooks, Mo (R-AL) $205,520
    Smith, Adam (D-WA) $201,000
    Reyes, Silvestre (D-TX) $199,500
    Nelson, Bill (D-FL) $189,800
    Paul, Ron (R) $185,182
    Granger, Kay (R-TX) $182,950
    Wittman, Rob (R-VA) $165,600
    Critz, Mark (D-PA) $163,374
    Thornberry, Mac (R-TX) $160,800
    Gillibrand, Kirsten (D-NY) $157,964
    Moran, Jim (D-VA) $156,500
    Aderholt, Robert B (R-AL) $156,500
    Rogers, Hal (R-KY) $151,750
    Hoyer, Steny H (D-MD) $148,700
    Hunter, Duncan D (R-CA) $145,450
    Rogers, Mike D (R-AL) $139,200

  3. David S Lewis

    And here is how much they spent on lobbying in 2013

    Total for Defense: $97,131,983
    Total Number of Clients Reported: 220
    Total Number of Lobbyists Reported: 801

    Industry Total spending
    Defense Aerospace $42,894,112
    Misc Defense $29,330,148
    Defense Electronics $24,907,723

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