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Reich writes: "President Obama is said to be considering an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending. He should sign it immediately."

Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein)
Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein)

How to Disrupt the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

05 July 15


resident Obama is said to be considering an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending. He should sign it immediately.

But he should go further and ban all political spending by federal contractors that receive more than half their revenues from government.

Ever since the Supreme Court’s shameful Citizens United decision, big corporations have been funneling large amounts of cash into American politics, often secretly. 

Bad enough. But when big government contractors do the funneling, American taxpayers foot the bill twice over: We pay their lobbying and campaign expenses. And when those efforts nab another contract, we pay for stuff we often don’t need.

This is especially true for defense contractors – the biggest federal contractors of all. 

A study by St. Louis University political scientist Christopher Witko reveals a direct relationship between what a corporation spends on campaign contributions and the amount it receives back in government contracts. 

A case in point is America’s largest contractor – Lockheed Martin. More than 80 percent of Lockheed’s revenues come from the U.S. government, mostly from the Defense Department.

Yet it’s hard to say Lockheed has given American taxpayers a good deal for our money.

For example, Lockheed is the main contractor for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – the single most expensive weapons program in history, and also one of the worst. It’s been plagued by so many engine failures and software glitches that Lockheed and its subcontractors practically had to start over this year.

Why do we keep throwing good money after bad?

Follow the money behind the money.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Lockheed’s Political Action Committee spent over $4 million on the 2014 election cycle, and has already donated over $1 million to candidates for 2016.

The top congressional recipient of Lockheed’s largesse is Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Armed Services committee. Second-highest is Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-New Jersey), Chair of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Third is Kay Granger, the Subcommittee’s Vice-Chair.

Lockheed also maintains a squadron of Washington lawyers and lobbyists dedicated to keeping and getting even more federal contracts. The firm spent over $14 million lobbying Congress last year.  

Remarkably, 73 out of Lockheed’s 109 lobbyists are former Pentagon officials, congressional staffers, White House aides, and former members of Congress.

You and I and other taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay Lockheed’s lobbying expenses, but these costs are built into the overhead Lockheed charges the government in its federal contracts.

And we shouldn’t foot the bill for Lockheed’s campaign contributions, but these are also covered in the overhead the firm charges  – including the salaries of executives expected to donate to Lockheed’s Political Action Committee. 

The ten largest federal contractors are all defense contractors, and we’re indirectly paying all of them to lobby Congress and buy off politicians.

To state it another way, we’re paying them to hire former government officials to lobby current government officials, and we’re also paying them to bribe current politicians – all in order to keep or get fat government contracts that often turn out to be lousy deals for us. 

Fifty six years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the dangers of an unbridled “military-industrial complex,” as he called it. Now it’s a military-industrial-congressional complex. After Citizens United, it’s less bridled than ever.

That’s why President Obama shouldn’t stop with an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political contributions.

He should ban all political activities by corporations getting more than half their revenues from the federal government. That includes Lockheed and every other big defense contractor. your social media marketing partner


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+65 # babaregi 2015-07-05 19:20
"Fifty six years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the dangers of an unbridled “military-indus trial complex,” as he called it. Now it’s a military-indust rial-congressio nal complex. "

Actually, Ike's first draft of his farewell address included 'congressional complex' as part of the term he coined but decided to leave it out (perhaps for political reasons).

It was as true then as it is now.
+26 # jdd 2015-07-06 07:48
It is not. Since that time, the power of Wall Street has exploded. American industry is largely decimated as usury has become our greatest industry. As Reich knows. only a return to Glass-Staegall can curb its power.
+16 # ritawalpoleague 2015-07-06 08:01
Thank you, babaregi. Have to admit, I'm curious. How did you get hold of that 'first draft' info.?

Re. Lockheed Martin, I'll never forget meeting and having an amazing conversation, while back in the Chesapeake putting my trawler on the market, with the lead 'offense' attorney in the case against Lockheed Martin. Seems that LM defrauded the govt. wrongfully, in an astonishing amount of well over a billion dollars.

Then, upon return to Colorado Springs and in an open office meeting of a U.S. fed. congressional rep., I told of what I'd learned re. LM, and had a totally surprised response from a family member of an LM administrative employee in Colo. Springs, stating that she had never heard anything about any of this LM defrauding.

My point - total corruption has overtaken us, here in the U.S, of (greed and need for power over all) A.(ddiction), as I saw again, firsthand, as a man, seated with attendees at the first open to the pubic city hall meeting following election of new city council members, announced his name and stated that: "I represent Prosperity for America". PFA is the Koch Brothers lobby/buyoff pols. machine.

The PFA then ordered vs. recommended city council on how they were to vote - council had to vote against keeping in place any and all solar gardens. New members automatically complied.

Time to put into place fed./state/coun try/city funding only for elections. Period.
+2 # tedrey 2015-07-06 12:33
Geoffrey Perret, in his biography of Eisenhower, claims that, in one draft of the speech, the phrase was "military–indus trial–congressi onal complex" . . . ; likewise a claim by Douglas Brinkley that it was originally "military–indus trial–scientifi c complex". Additionally, Henry Giroux claims that it was originally "military–indus trial–academic complex"

There's still room for others to stake their claims.
+26 # EmilyCragg 2015-07-05 21:46
Yes, this step would actually, literally, make a difference, particularly if it were combined with full Disclosure of the ET "threat."
+54 # danireland46 2015-07-05 21:59
This is a no-brainer. Of course contractors should reveal who's being bribed. Another no-brainer - Reich in an important position in the next Dem administration.
+55 # m... 2015-07-05 22:26

''How to Disrupt the Military-Indust rial-Congressio nal Complex''

Now.., how do we disrupt the Prison Industrial Complex..?
.......... and the Highway Industrial Complex..?
.......... and the Oversight Industrial Complex..?
.......... and the Banking Industrial Complex..?
.......... and the Corporate Media Industrial Complex..?
.......... and the Lobby Industrial Complex..?
.......... and the entire Privatized Government Industrial Complex..?
+20 # California Neal 2015-07-05 23:47
Wasn't it already the military-indust rial-security complex? So it's just getting more & more complex, isn't it?
+31 # Henry 2015-07-05 22:42
and, "How to Disrupt the
. . . . . Pharmaceutical Bureaucratic Complex
. . . . . and the Pesticeutical Nuclearistic Complex
. . . . . the Agrigressive Disingenuous Industry
. . . . . the Foundation for the Destruction of Life on Earth
. . . . . etc."
+2 # anarchteacher 2015-07-05 23:28
As someone who served as a flunky in the Clinton regime's corporatist welfare-warfare State, Reich's duplicitous rant is simply empty words. Prosecutions, not meaningless verbiage, is what is called for against the subterranean Deep State that rules our former republic of the rule of law.

As I strongly supported impeachment procedures against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as well as Barack Obama and Joe Biden, I fully support in addition their indictment as war criminals before the respected international tribunal established since Nuremberg for this purpose under international law, the International Criminal Court.

Indictment of Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, John Kerry (as well as other supporters of pre-emptive wars of aggression and crimes against humanity) for aiding and abetting in the commission of war crimes against the Afghan, Pakistani, Syrian, Libyan, and Iraqi peoples should also be undertaken by these international jurists.

The murderous tyrant Barack Obama has continued (and enhanced) the fascist Bush policies of waging aggressive, undeclared and unconstitutiona l pre-emptive wars abroad, murdering untold numbers in vicious drone attacks.

Via executive orders and presidential kill lists, he has vastly centralized presidential executive authority by claiming the extra-constitut ional power not merely to detain citizens without judicial review and legal counsel but to assassinate them.
+5 # CelticNavigator 2015-07-06 07:37
Good points, teacher, esp. about true justice being the best arbitrator re the Complex. But unless you and I stop paying taxes, WE are flunkies too, my friend. I can now see that Reich is likely playing a deeper game than I gave him credit for in my earlier post below, tho I did suggest he was neither blind nor a fool.

He knows damn well that the judicial and executive branches are part of the Complex, but he is stirring up some trouble for the Complex by potentially setting the various branches at each other's throats, hoping some of their excesses and abuses might somehow self-destruct via "acute indigestion in the Belly of the Beast."

If he wrote and acted as radically as you and I do, he would have ZERO chance of effecting change from inside the system, perhaps as a member of a future administration.

Perhaps he was a tool of Bill Clinton - I haven't researched that possibility yet, so I cannot comment on that. But it is also possible that behind closed doors he argued for the American Working Man. Labor Secretaries are pretty far down the White House pecking order / food chain, and it may be naive to think he had a truly significant amount of power and influence.

But many former White House officials have changed their tune after they left office and time and study have shown them the error of their ways. What is so obvious to us now was not likely so obvious to many back then. Hell- ten years ago I wasn't half the ass-kicker I am today... how about you?
+1 # Floridatexan 2015-07-06 10:11
You are trying to create a false equivalency.
+12 # futhark 2015-07-05 23:36
...or just be honest and amend the Constitution: "We the Corporations of the United States..." or "We the stockholders of the Corporate State of America..."

Why have elections when the national debt could be retired in a short time by selling political offices? Even better, more money could be raised by auctions than by charging fixed prices... "How much do I hear for this distinguished Senate seat?"...and so forth. ;>)
+3 # RHytonen 2015-07-06 09:14
Quoting futhark:
...or just be honest and amend the Constitution: "We the Corporations of the United States..." or "We the stockholders of the Corporate State of America..."

Why have elections when the national debt could be retired in a short time by selling political offices? Even better, more money could be raised by auctions than by charging fixed prices... "How much do I hear for this distinguished Senate seat?"...and so forth. ;>)

Isn't that exactly what our "election process" has already become? With a cartel of corporations acting through member-owned moneylaundering divisions called "Media."
And you thought there were laws against treason, trusts, bribery and corruption.
+7 # dquandle 2015-07-06 01:15
There is nothing Obama wants to do less than disrupt the military industrial congressional complex.
+3 # CelticNavigator 2015-07-06 05:59
I like you, Robert, I really do. But you are way behind the times, since we are now most certainly dealing with a military industrial financial media academic congressional judicial executive complex.

There are tons of evidence for that statement, and assuming that you are neither blind nor a fool, you know that I am right. ALL of the above components are deeply interconnected, and all of them are deeply represented at the yearly since 1876 Boys Only Bohemian Grove "festivities" that will start yet again in a matter of days. Check out this incomplete list of Bohemian Grove camps to see how well represented every component of the M/I/F/M/A/C/J/E complex is there, my friend:

Here is a RSN Godot article I wrote on the topic:
+7 # RMDC 2015-07-06 06:04
All of these are good ideas but Reich is asking the criminals to police themselves. The system of the M-I-C cannot be reformed. There are no reformers who will use the money (bribes) they get as campaign contributions to keep the corruption in place.

The only reform is people power --just don't pay taxes to the military. Follow the lead of the War Resister's League and don't pay taxes to support war and the military. Refuse and Resist. If enough people cut off the money supply, then things would change. The military contractors are after the money and when that is gone, they too will go.
+6 # CelticNavigator 2015-07-06 06:57
I agree - tax money drives everything. Problem: Individual income taxes only cover the interest on the U.S. National Debt and corporate taxes cover everything else. Perhaps boycotting biggest corp offenders would be more productive?

Robert discussed the executive and judicial branches, but did not include them in the Complex. Banks' roles obvious, 6 media corps control 90% of what we see, hear and read, 75% of college grants provided by gov departments and corps that own them, and the rest of the components of the military industrial financial media academic judicial congressional executive complex are too obvious to point out.
+9 # RMDC 2015-07-06 08:06
Corporations pay very little Federal Tax. They pay less than 4% of the total amount collected. And they receive back huge subsidies and crony government contracts.

People pay most of the US tax bill. The US regime borrows money to make up the deficit. It is not going to tax its rulers in the corporate world.

Let's be honest. Military contracts are nothing more than a transfer of wealth from people to corporations and their investors. The Bush family has been in the weapons provision business since the Civil War. That is how J.P. Morgan started out. Weapons dealers sell junk and worthless killing machines to governments as a way to loot a nation of its wealth. There's never a shortage of money to buy criminal killing devices. Just don't pay these mother fuckers. That's the only way to stop them. They only want your money. When you don't pay, they will go away.
+3 # CelticNavigator 2015-07-06 09:53
You are correct- I was regurgitating tax info from the movie, "From Freedom to Fascism," here that has largely been discredited since I saw it years ago. Too bad, coz it has many damned interesting points in it...

But if you re-read my post, I said, "Individual income taxes only cover the interest on the U.S. National Debt," not the yearly cost of running our empire. National Debt approx. $19 trillion and receipts from individual income tax approx $1 trillion, or 5.26% of National Debt.

Interest we paid on National Debt in 2014 was $430,812,121,37 2.05 , or approx 44% of individual federal income tax payments
+5 # Dale 2015-07-06 08:37
The Department of War, the Central Intelligence Assassins, the Homeland Insurity, all the agencies of the repressive apparatus have spawned a vast array of private contracting corporations
That are well beyond the “Military-Indus trial Complex” that President Eisenhower warned against.
It is these days not just the big corporations producing weapons,
Now it is private contractors that do much of the dirty counter-terrori sm work,
The computer surveillance and sabotage work, the spy work on corporate competitors,
The listening in on allies like the German Chanciler and French Presidents, or reformists like the President of Brazil,
Secret mercenary work to disrupt and kill.
The shadow private complex takes in trillions with no oversight or accountability.
The State of National Insecurity is state agencies in symbiosis with a huge complex of private entities
Contracted to share and profit from the Dirty Work.
This Complex, the merging of government agencies and private corporatioms
Does the bidding of the entire Plutocracy.
United by thirst for war and empire abroad
And social control on the home front.
+4 # Robbee 2015-07-06 10:40
re : ''How to Disrupt the Military-Indust rial-Congressio nal Complex''

Now.., how do we disrupt (all the other banking, trading and other industrial complexes)?

that's simple, shining light on money in politics DISRUPTS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! but it helps spur bernie's movement to get private money out of politics - it also helps spur the narrower movement of alot of dems to let congress decide whether or not to, and if so how much, limit money in politics, or, in other words, back to the bad old days before CU, that gave us a whole hellofa lot of money in politics, so much so that almost all members of congress eagerly spent the vast majority of their time begging the rich 1% for campaign contributions, rather than working for we the people

in other words the only way SURE to "disrupt" private money in politics is a constitutional amendment that publicly funds, only, all federal, state and local elections - no one but a candidate for office can advertise anything political - no one can give any money or thing of value to any candidate or officeholder - in every campaign, a candidate can only spend public money

reich, what is so good about dem and repub members of congress getting together and deciding whether or not to disrupt money in politics and, if so, by how much? who does this serve - members of congress or we the people - it cannot serve both!

what do you say, reich, will you please stop shilling for business as usual, albeit business as usual before CU?
+3 # James Marcus 2015-07-06 11:52
Too Little, Too Late. 'Disclosure' will not halt this Train. And, HALT, it must! And, not only Military Contractors, though there FOR SURE, goes most of 'The Missing Dollars'
that plague the National Budget, Treasury, and Fostered Immorality
+4 # reiverpacific 2015-07-06 12:46
This is old news resurrected.
I remember when George Schultz left Bechtel as C.E.O. to succeed Alex Haig as Reagan's Secretary of State, this made Bechtel an easy shoe-in as a government contractor, including the failed attempts at containing the filthy, deadly spawn of the Manhattan Project, via Hanford's faulty toxic sludge storage tanks, now seeping towards the Columbia River through groundwater seams.
Like Torquemada Cheney's former position at KBR/Haliburton got them no-bid contracts for the Green Zone in Baghdad and many shoddily-built military installations in which at least two soldiers were electrocuted in the showers from ungrounded sockets. -Plus the "Missing Iraqi Billions!
Apart from Lockheed, Raethon and Westinghouse have fingers in the deep jelly jar and are as cynical, crooked and inefficient as they are allowed by their congressional puppets and SCOTUS's activist cronyism.
No wonder they love the "Continual War" somewhere, anywhere, even if they have to manufacture crimes like 9-11 to inflame the somnambulate population into a froth of "Patriotic" howling for wars of attrition and revenge against the wrong country -and will kill anybody trying to curb such activities.
Obama's probably aware of this but I'm not optimistic about his chances; after all, he's bucking against those who REALLY run this country!
Is there ANY way that such massive, almost blatant nepotism can be curbed by we "Little people" who fund them, other than a national tax revolt?!
+1 # Trojan Horace 2015-07-07 02:47
"But he should go further and ban all political spending by federal contractors that receive more than half their revenues from government." BS - If he's interested in ending professional conflicts of interest and outright bribery they should ban political contributions from federal contractors that receive ANY revenue from government.

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