Campaign Cash & the Security-Industrial Complex

Each year, special interest groups, many of which are large corporations—either indirectly through their K Street lobbyists or, directly, through political action committees and individual donations—contribute millions of dollars to congressional representatives and senators in Washington, D.C.

In his book No Place to Hide, award-wining journalist Robert O’Harrow, Jr. contends that, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, congress gave the Bush administration a virtual blank check to build a nation-wide surveillance state. With hundreds of billions of dollars flowing from federal government coffers over 1,900 private corporations quickly formed a new “security-industrial complex.”

In the coming weeks, in order to follow-the-money connected to the purveyors of government surveillance, SF will analyze the Federal Election Commission reports of southeastern Wisconsin’s three congressional representatives.

First up, is Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner.

Elected in 1978, Jim Sensenbrenner is a senior member of the House of Representatives.  Each year, he regularly holds a number of town meetings within the confines of his district, where regular Joes (i.e. those of us not represented by well-heeled lobbyists) can share their concerns.  

A friend of mine, who attended one of Sensenbrenner’s town halls in the Lake Country area about three years ago, showed-up to complain about the three major credit bureaus. When a national bank jacked-up the interest on his credit card from 12.5 to 18.5 percent, my friend decided to shop elsewhere. When a locally owned bank offered a credit card with an eight percent interest rate, he readily accepted; whereby, he paid down and then cancelled the high interest credit card. A few months later, he learned that at least one of the three major credit bureaus downgraded his credit score. The reason: he cancelled a major line of credit that he no longer wanted or needed.

Since many employers review a job applicant’s credit rating and these scores further determine the amount of interest charged by creditors, my friend asked Rep. Sensenbrenner what congress could do to remedy the matter. Sensenbrenner purportedly replied that congress has little regulatory power over credit bureaus and that the banking lobby is very strong in Washington.  Although appreciative of Rep. Sensenbrenner’s candor, he walked away from the town hall meeting with the realization that money is the only voice in Washington that seems to get a fair hearing.

And make no mistake about it—money is what it is all about, which is why it is important to keep an eye on campaign financial filings.  That being said contributions from lobbyist and attorneys limit the public’s ability to follow the money trail.

For example, from July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2011, Jim Sensenbrenner received $34,921 from lobbyists, lawyers and law firms.[1]  Campaign finance reports, however, do not indicate which special interests these entities represent.

In regards to companies linked to the security-industrial complex, during the same period from 2009 – 2011, Sensenbrenner received $11,000 from Honeywell, a maker of high-tech video surveillance systems and $7,000 from Lockheed Martin. 

Traditionally a defense contractor, about 80 percent of Lockheed Martin’s annual revenue emanates from federal government contracts.[2]  However, when the pipeline of cash to the security-industrial complex began flowing, Lockheed-Martin did not miss a beat.  In 2008, the company won a $1 billion deal to develop the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) network.  NGI uses biometrics—software employing mathematical formulas to develop facial recognition characteristics, voice identification, keystroke rhythm classifications, and iris scans—to identify Americans as they are captured on CCTV, talking on the sidewalk to a friend, or simply typing e-mails. These technologies are the lynchpins of Real ID—legislation introduced by Rep. Sensenbrenner that civil libertarians equate to a national identification card.

From July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2012, Sensenbrenner’s campaign fund received $11,000 from Google’s PAC, as well as $2,500 from Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt and $1,000 from Google’s Kent Walker. While Google is an Internet-based technology company, they have a working relationship with the National Security Agency—America’s top-secret electronic eavesdropping outfit.[3]

Over the same period, General Electric’s PAC contributed $4,000 to Sensenbrenner’s campaign fund.[4]

From 2011 – 2012, Congressman Sensenbrenner’s campaign received a total of $158,877 from political action committee’s.  Ninety-three percent of Sensenbrenner’s campaign fund came from contributions made from outside his Wisconsin congressional district.[5]

NEXT: SF examines Congresswoman Gwen Moore’s campaign donations.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, is now available at Amazon.com.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit

www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012


[1] F. “Jim” Sensenbrenner: Republican (Elected 1978) WI House District Five.”  Maplight.org. 23 May 2012.  http://maplight.org/us-congress/legislator/456-f-jim-sensenbrenner

[2] “Aerospace and Defense Overview.” Wetfeet.com. 23 May 2012.  http://www.wetfeet.com/careers-industries/industries/aerospace-and-defense

[3] “Court Rules that Google-NSA Ties can Remain Secret.” USAToday.com. May 12, 2012.  23 May 2012. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-05-11/court-google-nsa-spy-china/54912902/1

[4] “FEC Disclosure Report: Sensenbrenner Committee.” Nictusa.com. 23 May 2012.  http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/com_detail/C00083428/

[5] “FEC Disclosure Report: Sensenbrenner Committee.” Nictusa.com. 23 May 2012.  http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/com_detail/C00083428/

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