Thursday, July 17, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Has Congress Been Bought Off To Support World's Most Expensive And Troubled Weapon?

Remember Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the brash, defiant Congressman and former Top Gun pilot who in 2005 saw his political career implode when he admitted taking more than $2 million in bribes from defense contractors? Cunningham, who was jailed for using his influence to steer tens of millions of dollars in government contracts to these companies, has been called the most corrupt Congressman in modern American history. 

But is he really that much worse than the current members of Congress who are still taking millions from defense contractors and supporting their weapons projects -- even when they don't work and cost the taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars?

Yes, billions. Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jet, which Time magazine last year called the most expensive weapon ever built, is also one of the most troubled. Beset for years by cost overruns, delays and technical problems, the aircraft, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, was grounded last month because of an engine fire on the runway at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

The Wall Street Journal reports that while the Pentagon has approved the F-35 to resume limited flying, the fire kept the aircraft from making a planned trip across the Atlantic for its overseas debut. Meanwhile, the GAO reports that the F-35, which on its good days can reportedly fly faster than the speed of sound, is now expected to cost a whopping $396 billion by the time it is completed.

Clearly we can't afford this plane. But Congress keeps green-lighting it anyway. Why? Well, maybe it has something to do with the fact that Lockheed Martin gave more than $12 million to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives from 2001 through 2013.

It is no big surprise that by unanimous voice vote, Senate appropriators today again approved more funding for procurement of the F-35 for fiscal year 2015. The Department of Defense appropriations bill that includes the funds will now get a vote on the Senate floor.

The amount of money Lockheed Martin has spent trying to curry favor in Congress, presumably for the F-35 as well as the company's other projects, is staggering. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), vice chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, is the biggest winner in the House's race for Lockheed bucks. She received $226,150 from Lockheed Martin from 2001 through 2013, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization that reveals money’s influence on politics.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, received $66,500 from Lockheed Martin from 2001 through 2013, according to MapLight, which notes that this is 4.4 times as much as the average for a U.S. Representative ($15,072).

Frelinghuysen's committee originates the annual House legislation that funds the F-35 procurement program.

On the Senate side, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), chair of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, received $74,200 from Lockheed Martin from 2001 through 2013, according to MapLight, which notes that this is 4.8 times as much as the average for a U.S. Senator ($15,382). 

Durbin's committee originates the annual Senate legislation that funds the F-35 procurement program.

Does this pass your smell test? I mean, c'mon, members of Congress, don't insult our intelligence. If this isn't a classic example of quid pro quo, I don't know what is. Don't even try to convince me that this aircraft is so badly needed that it is worth nearly $400 billion. 

Remember, these pols who love throwing gargantuan amounts of cash at this airplane are the same people who refuse to invest in education, immigration, Veterans Affairs, and countless other more worthy recipients because, dammit, we have to get a handle on big government spending!

We have the strongest military in the world, folks. Without the F-35, which has been arguably the most expensive spending disaster in our nation's history. It's time to shelve this behemoth. Let it die. Move on.  

Can you even imagine how many good things could be purchased for nearly $396 billion? Or, here's a better idea: give that money back to us! If you're worried that this will take jobs away, don't. There are plenty of other defense contracts to keep the folks at Lockheed Martin, which reportedly beat out Boeing for the coveted F-35 contract way back in 2001, very busy and happy.


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