Defense Funding

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  • Wash. Post Doesn’t Disclose Writer Supporting Syria Strike Is A Lobbyist For Tomahawk Missile Manufacturer

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The Washington Post is allowing writer Ed Rogers to push for and praise military action against Syria without disclosing that he’s a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon, which makes the Tomahawk missiles used in the recent strike.

    Rogers is a contributor to The Washington Post’s PostPartisan blog, where he wrote an April 8 piece praising President Donald Trump for authorizing the launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase that reportedly housed warplanes that carried out chemical attacks against civilians.

    In the piece -- headlined “Could it be? Is President Trump on a roll?” -- Rogers wrote that Trump “received bipartisan support for his military strike in Syria,” and added that the fact Trump “launched an attack against Syria while his Chinese counterpart was present and able to witness the aftermath in the media was a powerful stroke of good luck for the White House. In case Xi needed any reminding of just how serious Trump may be about taking action in North Korea, the Syria attack couldn’t have been a better example or come at a better time.”

    Rogers previously criticized President Obama for failing to intervene in Syria in a December 19, 2016, Post piece. He wrote: “As troubling as it is that Obama and the Democrats allowed the Russians to interfere in the election and engage in cyberwarfare without any ramifications, we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, it is the Obama administration that has capitulated to Iran at every turn and stood by as Syrian government forces, facilitated by the Russians, slaughtered hundreds of thousands in Syria. Now more than ever, it is clear it is time for an urgent change in our foreign policy. Obama and his team cannot leave office soon enough.”

    The Post did not disclose that Rogers and his firm, BGR Group, lobbies on behalf of Raytheon, which manufactures the million-dollar Tomahawk missiles. BGR received $120,000 in 2016 for lobbying on “Defense and communications procurement; Defense appropriations and authorizations,” according to its lobbying disclosure reports (see quarters 123, and 4). Rogers is listed as a lobbyist in those forms. BGR is one of the country's largest lobbying firms, taking in nearly $17 million in reported lobbying income last year. 

    Rogers isn’t the only commentator to hide conflicts of interest in recent pro-strike punditry. Media Matters has documented that Fox News failed to disclose that military analyst Jack Keane is on the board of directors of General Dynamics, which produces material used in the launching of Tomahawk missiles.

    Media Matters previously noted that the Post has allowed Rogers to use his column to advocate for his clients’ interests, including on climate policies. In late 2015, the paper finally added a note about his specific work in the fossil fuel industry. At the very least, it needs to do it again regarding his financial ties to Raytheon.

  • Fox News Hides Syria Strike Supporter's Major Conflict Of Interest

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Fox News has been hiding a major financial conflict of interest of one of its most frequent analysts on the United States’ missile strike against Syria.

    Fox News military analyst and retired U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane has regularly appeared on the channel in the past several days to praise President Donald Trump for launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airbase that reportedly housed warplanes that carried out chemical attacks against civilians. But Fox and Keane have repeatedly failed to disclose that Keane is on the board of directors of General Dynamics -- an aerospace and defense company that develops technology for launching Tomahawk missiles.

    General Dynamics is a U.S.-based company that received roughly $19 billion in defense industry revenue in 2015. Keane has been on its board of directors since 2004 and, according to the company’s most recent proxy statement, received $257,884 in compensation (including “stock awards”) in 2016.

    According to Fortune writer Jen Wieczner, on the first day of trading following the strike on Syria, shares of defense industry stocks --  including General Dynamics -- collectively gained “nearly $5 billion in market value as soon as they began trading, even as the broader market fell.” She also noted that General Dynamics “makes technology used to fire Tomahawk missiles” and the company’s stock “is up 14%” since Trump was elected.

    General Dynamics has long ties to Raytheon, which “makes the Tomahawk missiles used in the air strikes on Syria by the United States.” General Dynamics stated in a 2010 press release that the company “has been producing the [composite capsule launch system] structures for Raytheon since the late 1980s.” According to the company’s ordnance and tactical systems business unit website, it manufactures “numerous critical metal components for the tomahawk missile program.”

    Keane has appeared on numerous Fox News programs to discuss Syria in the past several days without the network disclosing his financial conflict of interest.

    For instance, Keane appeared on the April 6 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, during which he praised the U.S. military’s ability to use cruise missiles in a then-hypothetical strike, stating: “It would be standoff cruise missiles delivered from surface and subsurface ships. We would not have to fly a single airplane into Syria. We would not have to deal with Russian missile defense or Syrian missile defense.”

    Following the missile launch, he appeared on shows like Hannity, Fox & Friends, Shepard Smith Reporting, The First 100 Days, and America’s News HQ and praised President Trump for showing “strong, responsible, and moral leadership.”

    Keane’s biography on Fox News’ website also makes no mention of his ties to General Dynamics.

    In 2013, the Public Accountability Initiative criticized Keane and other military analysts for routinely failing to disclose their ties to defense contractors and other firms while discussing Syria. The nonprofit noted that Keane is also “a venture partner of SCP Partners, a defense-focused investment firm.” The Washington Post quoted then-Fox News executive vice president Michael Clemente stating of Keane: “We generally disclose contacts when our judgment is that it’s journalistically germane to the story.”

  • TV News Coverage Of Trump’s Policies Overwhelmed By His Wiretapping Lie

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Broadcast and cable news coverage of ruinous economic policies rolled out by the White House last week was overwhelmed by the president’s false accusation that his predecessor illegally wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

    On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that up to 24 million Americans would lose access to health insurance over the next 10 years if the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare goes into effect. On that same day, the Trump administration unveiled an overlooked executive order that encourages cabinet secretaries and agency directors to create a plan to completely reshape a federal bureaucracy of over 2.8 million employees. And on March 16, the Trump administration unveiled its budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year, featuring proposed “massive cuts” to nondefense spending. The proposed cuts, which would offset an increase in spending on military programs and a border wall, would hit almost every facet of the federal government, but they would come down particularly hard on funding for small programs including Meals on Wheels, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS.

    Yet according to Media Matters research, from March 13 to 17, President Donald Trump’s false wiretap claim dominated TV news coverage, overshadowing discussion of these important policy moves. While Trump’s lie certainly merits extensive media coverage, it’s also crucial to share details of his policymaking with the public.

    Trump ignited a media firestorm in early March when he repeatedly accused former President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping him in the midst of last year's election. Right-wing media, led by Fox News, sprang to his defense even though the president offered no evidence to support his claim. Meanwhile, legitimate reporters exposed the bizarre accusation’s source as “the right-wing fever swamps” of fringe media and reported that it was pushed by a Russian state-sponsored news network. During March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey put Trump’s wiretapping lie to rest, telling the committee, “I have no information that supports those tweets.”

    Yet nearly two weeks after Trump initially made the claim, his smear of Obama still had such an influence on television news coverage that it overshadowed every other discussion about Trump’s policy agenda last week. Media Matters identified 226 segments from March 13 through 17 that focused on Trump during evening programming on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC and major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. Of those segments, 64 focused on Trump’s wiretapping allegations -- a figure that dwarfed every other major issue Media Matters identified. Coverage of Trump’s health care plan came in a distant second place, with 37 segments, and stories related to the portion of Trump’s 2005 tax returns obtained by Rachel Maddow ranked third (26 segments). Trump’s proposed budget outline was discussed in just 14 segments, and his executive order to reshape the federal workforce registered just four mentions.

    With television news forced to dissect and debunk Trump’s outrageous claims, coverage of pressing economic issues was eclipsed. Coverage of the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- which health care experts have said would be particularly harmful to low-income Americans, seniors, and people dealing with illnesses -- could not overtake that of Trump’s wiretapping tweet, even with the Trump administration attempting to smear the CBO numbers in the press. The executive order, which was described by CNN reporter Stephen Collinson as part of Trump’s larger goal to “dismember government one dollar at a time,” barely registered in news coverage at all. And Trump’s budget cuts, which would decimate social safety net programs, were discussed 14 times during evening news coverage on March 16 and 17, while Trump’s lie about wiretapping was discussed 35 times on those two days.

    Trump’s promotion of a discredited lie accusing his predecessor of illegal conduct while in office merits extensive media coverage, but the policies he has enacted or plans to enact can be just as destructive as the misinformation he spreads. Media cannot afford to let Trump's misleading claims dominate the news cycle, drowning out crucial coverage of the pain his policies may cause the United States.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening news programming (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, as well as the major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, from March 13, 2017, through March 17, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Trump or executive order or federal government or federal employ! or federal worker or federal workers or civil service or government workers or government worker or federal government or budget.

    The following programs were included in the data: ABC's World News Tonight, CBS' Evening News, NBC's Nightly News, and PBS' NewsHour, as well as CNN's The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight, Fox News' Special Report, The First 100 Days, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity, and MSNBC's For The Record, Hardball, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval. This survey includes CNN’s second live hour of Anderson Cooper 360 during the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot.

    For this study, Media Matters included only those segments that contained substantial discussions of Donald Trump. We defined a "substantial discussion" as any segment where a host dedicates a monologue, or portion of a monologue, to Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States, or any segment where two or more guests discuss Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States. We did not include teasers or clips of news events, or rebroadcasts of news packages that were already counted when they first aired in the 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. survey window.

  • Economists And Experts Hammer Trump's Plan To Increase Military Spending At Expense Of Nearly Everything Else

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump’s plan to beef up the defense budget by an additional $54 billion at the expense of civilian domestic spending, which he will unveil tonight before a joint session of Congress, has been derided by economists and experts for being "wholly unrealistic" and “voodoo” economics.

    Bloomberg reported on February 26, that Trump’s first budget proposal would call for a $54 billion -- more than 9 percent -- increase in defense spending to be paid for with reductions to discretionary domestic spending, which Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) described as the budgetary equivalent of taking “a meat ax to programs that benefit the middle-class.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed reports of the president’s budget priorities in a February 27 press briefing, adding that Trump would discuss his budget plan in more detail during his February 28 address to Congress.

    Economists and experts have hammered Trump for months for proposing dramatic and seemingly unnecessary increases in defense spending. An October 19 article in New York magazine described Trump’s promises of new defense expenditures as “a random grab bag of military goodies, untethered to any coherent argument” because he lacked any vision or purpose for increasing funding to the military. According to figures compiled by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, American defense spending already eclipses the military spending of the next seven countries combined:

    The reception for Trump’s new budget outline has been similarly harsh. New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman derided the president’s claim that a “revved up economy” could fund new tax cuts and spending increases as “deep voodoo” -- alluding to Trump’s embrace of trickle-down economics. Washington Post contributor and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) senior fellow Jared Bernstein slammed Trump’s “wholly unrealistic” budget outline in a February 28 column and chided the president for claiming that he can simultaneously increase military spending, cut taxes on high-income earners and corporations, and reduce the federal deficit -- all while leaving vital entitlement programs alone. In order to even approach a balanced budget in 10 years, Trump would have to remove almost everything else in the budget:

    According to a February 27 analysis from the CBPP, Trump's proposal, when coupled with his plan to boost infrastructure investments, would mean nondefense spending would see a whopping 15 percent reduction. The reason for the outsized hit to nondefense discretionary spending is that the programs covered by that part of the federal budget -- education, energy, affordable housing, infrastructure investments, law enforcement, foreign aid, some veterans' benefits, etc. -- only account for a small part of all federal spending. The largest part of the federal budget is mandatory spending for entitlement programs including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other veterans's benefits, and unemployment insurance. From the Congressional Budget Office:

    Trump’s proposed cuts to the State Department are so onerous that more than 120 retired generals signed an open letter to congressional leaders warning of their ramifications. One co-signer told CBS News that such steep cuts would be “consigning us to a generational war,” and the letter itself quoted Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who argued during his time at the head of U.S. Central Command that “if you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

    ThinkProgress blasted Trump’s proposals to cut the State Department along with domestic spending in the name of increasing national defense because such cuts would actually undermine national security. The article cited recent congressional testimony from Center for American Progress senior fellow Larry Korb, who testified that “our national security will suffer” if the federal budget prioritized the Pentagon at the expense of other agencies.

    Trump is notorious for pushing bogus claims about the economy and the federal budget. He has been derided by hundreds of economists for pushing right-wing myths about the economy and the federal debt, and routine criticisms of his unfounded claims were a mainstay of the presidential campaign in 2016. As was the case last year, the budgetary, fiscal, and tax policies Trump has supported since taking office simply don’t add up.

  • It Could Soon Be Easier For The Media To Expose Dark Money Donations By Government Contractors

    Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    In the years since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, political spending has skyrocketed, much of it in secret. The ruling has kept the media and public from knowing where this "dark money" comes from and what conflicts of interest exist. However, if President Obama decides to issue an executive order requiring contractors to disclose their political donations, as he is reportedly considering doing, journalists will soon be able to expose the hidden relationships between contractors and elected officials.

    Citizens United opened the financial floodgates to dark money groups - organizations that raise unlimited money from donors to pay for political advertising and campaign organizing but are not obligated to disclose where the money came from. The decision has allowed corporations and wealthy individuals to have enormous influence over elections because it allows them to get around the legal direct donation limits to candidates and parties, creating what many view as a corrupting influence.

    As a recent New York Times editorial noted, President Obama is considering issuing an executive order that would force federal contractors to disclose donations to dark money groups. The editorial, which advocated for an order "requiring federal contractors to disclose their donations to political candidates," also noted that House Republicans are currently crafting legislation to further decrease transparency in political spending. Because of entrenched Republican opposition to campaign finance reform, the proposed executive order requiring disclosure on the part of federal contractors may be the only forthcoming measure to address the crisis of money in politics.

    [Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 7/14/15]

    Some of the larger implications of the Citizens United decision and the ability of federal contractors to skirt federal law have been the subject of investigative reporting by national media, who have looked into the origins of dark money groups. But federal contractors' political spending has received little coverage, mostly because so little reliable information is available, given the secretive nature of the donation process. That is slowly changing, thanks to a renewed push by media outlets and advocacy groups for executive action to force contractors to disclose donations. Their efforts could soon produce results and give media the power to report on how contractors try to gain influence by supporting candidates through dark money groups.

    Citizens United gave federal contractors a huge incentive to contribute to these third-party groups as a way to curry favor with politicians who award lucrative government contracts. Washington hands out hundreds of billions of dollars annually in federal contracts and grants, and a vast majority go to large corporations. According to the Brennan Center, "Since 2000, the top 10 federal contractors have made $1.5 trillion from the government." In some states, these federal contractors are an outsized influence on the local economy.

    Though the law says 23 percent of federal contracts must go to small businesses, large defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have found ways to qualify as small businesses in certain circumstances. Nine of the top 10 contract winners so far this year have been defense contractors whose political action committees (PACs) were among the largest contributors to federal candidates in the first quarter of 2015:

    Requiring contractors to disclose donations would not only affect companies that survive off of federal contracts, like many defense firms, it would also shed light on companies for whom contracts are only part of a larger business model, such as the billionaire Koch brothers-controlled Koch Industries, which has a history of winning federal contracts.

    The potential conflict of interest inherent in allowing contractors to donate to politicians who decide which companies get government contracts was acknowledged as far back as 1940. As The Brennan Center for Justice's Ciara Torres-Spelliscy reported, the 1940 Hatch Act made it illegal for contractors to donate "directly or indirectly to make any contribution of money or other things of value, or to promise expressly or impliedly to make any such contribution to any political party, committee, or candidate for public office or to any person for any political purpose or use." However, courts have decided that a contractor may set up its own super PAC as a separate entity to get around the Hatch Act. As the Brennen Center explained in a report on one of the legal challenges to the law:

    In 2013, Public Citizen launched a complaint against Chevron for giving $2.5 million to a super PAC called the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF). This expenditure was the largest one from a for-profit publicly traded company in the 2012 election cycle.

    This should have be a slam dunk of a case since Chevron is a government contractor covered by the Hatch Act. But the FEC did not see it that way. As Mother Jones reported, "The FEC bought the company's argument, which is that Chevron Corporation (the organization that donated to CLF) and Chevron U.S.A. (the organization with government contracts) are entirely different entities." It did not matter that Chevron U.S.A. is 100 percent owned by Chevron Corp. Now it is open season for government contractors to spend in federal elections since all they have to do is spend through a different subsidiary. The Hatch Act is now barely worth the paper it's written on if this is how the FEC is going to "enforce" it.

    And while super PACs are transparent, listing publicly where they got their funds, the donors to super PACs can be dark money conduits like 501(c)(4)s or 501(c)(6)s. Consequently, federal contractors could be hiding among the donors of $600 million in dark money that has been spent in the past four years.

    While an executive order would not eliminate contractors' ability to donate to dark money groups, as the Brennen Center points out, it would give journalists and citizens a clearer view into which organizations are supporting which candidates, and could go a long way toward deterring corrupt pay-to-play practices:

    Such disclosure [of federal contractor's donations] would not bring all dark money to light, but it would expose a type of dark money that should be especially troubling: campaign contributions that could have been given to influence a contract awarded by the government.

  • Fox's Napolitano Thinks Education, Justice, And Health Are Federal Programs "We Don't Really Need"

    ››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER

    Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed that failure to raise the debt ceiling would only affect discretionary spending -- something he said "we don't really need as a country." This ignores the importance of discretionary programs and the far-reaching impact that failure to increase the debt ceiling would have.

  • Fox Guest Bashes Obama Over Defense Cuts That He Voted For

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News covered up Republican support for defense cuts, letting Republican Congressman Mike Turner (OH) blame President Obama for the cuts, despite the fact that Turner himself voted for them. 

    On September 3, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed Rep. Turner, who linked across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration, to possible military intervention in Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. During the interview, Turner complained that "the president has left sequestration in place." Turner later commented that Obama "has allowed sequestration to be impacting our men and women who are every day getting up for our national security."

    But Turner, along with more than 200 other Republicans, voted for the 2011 Budget Control Act, which House Republican leadership hailed as a victory. Congress passed the law to incentivize further deficit reduction measures, and when Republicans refused to compromise in considering additional tax revenue and more targeted spending cuts to offset sequestration, the cuts were triggered.

    Contrary to Congressman Turner's repeated assertions that the president decided to let the cuts remain, it is Republicans' refusal to pursue alternatives to the cuts that keep them in place.

  • Fox Ignores Military Testimony, Claims Guantanamo Bay Improvements Designed To Benefit Suspected Terrorists

    Blog ››› ››› EMILY ARROWOOD

    Fox News ignored military testimony in order to claim that the proposed overhaul of Guantanamo Bay facilities is intended to improve conditions for alleged terrorists, when in fact U.S. troops would be the primary beneficiaries.

    Earlier this week, General John Kelly, head of U.S. Southern Command, spoke before the House Armed Services Committee on the immediate need for upgrades to U.S. detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Kelly testified that the proposed overhaul to the base would cost between $150-170 million and would, among other things, build a new dining facility, hospital, and barracks for U.S. troops stationed there. Gen. Kelly urged Congress to approve the expenditures, stating, "We need to take care of our troops."

    Notably, as NPR reported, "Kelly said none of the projects are aimed at improving the 'lifestyle' of the detainees. But the improvements will increase security and improve the ease of movement for the detainees, which will benefit the guards by making their jobs less complicated."

    Fox & Friends Saturday omitted any mention of how the proposed renovations would improve facilities for U.S. troops. Instead, guest-host Jesse Watters, a producer for The O'Reilly Factor, suggested that they were intended to better the lives of suspected terrorist detainees: "These are terrorists. They were living in caves in Afghanistan, in mud huts, basically. Now we're saying Guantanamo bay, a federal facility in the Caribbean is not good enough for these guys?"