Defense Contractors Hedging Their Bets in Key SASC Member Races

With the 2018 midterm elections less than a week away, defense contractors are funneling campaign contributions into incumbents sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), while keeping an eye on possible surprise challengers.

The armed services committees from both chambers are likely to see significant turnover in the next congress, regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 6 election. Nearly half of the SASC members are seeking re-election, and several of those incumbents are in tight races against their challengers.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) with Boeing Defense senior leaders Shelley Lavender and Leanne Caret in St. Louis in 2017 (Photo: Twitter)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) with Boeing Defense senior leaders Shelley Lavender and Leanne Caret in St. Louis in 2017. (Photo: Twitter)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is facing a tough challenge from Republican Josh Hawley, the state’s attorney general. McCaskill sits on several SASC committees, including Airland, Cybersecurity and Personnel, and is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Boeing [BA] has spent over $50,700 on McCaskill’s 2018 campaign as of Oct. 17, according to the latest numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics. McCaskill tied with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who is leading her race by a wide margin against Republican Joey Gibson, for receiving the most Boeing donations in the 2018 cycle.

Boeing has spent about 54 percent of its campaign donations on Republican candidates, about $1.8 million, versus $1.5 million for Democratic candidates. But the company has hedged its bets on the Democratic candidates of several tight or vulnerable races, including McCaskill in Missouri. McCaskill also received nearly $13,000 from General Dynamics [GD] for her 2018 reelection campaign.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), a HASC member who is running for Republican Ted Cruz’s Senate seat, received just over $16,000 from Boeing. Cruz sits on the SASC subcommittees for seapower, emerging threats and capabilities, and readiness and management support, and has faced a tough challenge from O’Rourke. Boeing has contributed about $6,400 to his reelection campaign.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin [LMT] donated over $37,000 to Cruz’s reelection campaign, and $15,000 to his opponent. Lockheed has submitted over $3.9 million in campaign donations for the 2018 cycle, with $2.4 million – over 60 percent – going to Republican candidates.

Raytheon [RTN] donated over $18,000 to O’Rourke’s campaign, $4,000 more than to Cruz. The company has spent about $2.9 million on the 2018 election, with nearly $1.8 million going to Republicans and over $1.1 million funding Democrats.

Defense companies have also been watching the campaign to fill Arizona’s open Senate seat, which will be vacated by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake at the end of this year. General Dynamics [GD] has contributed $14,548 to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)’s campaign, while her opponent, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) has received $11,380 to date.

McSally, an Air Force combat pilot veteran, currently sits on the HASC committee and could vie for a seat on SASC if she were to be elected. She has also received $35,500 from Raytheon, while Sinema received $14,700 to date.

Although Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is not running for reelection until 2020, defense contractors are noting his building influence on the Senate Armed Services Committee – especially after the Aug. 25 passing of chairman Sen. John McCain – and as he has demonstrated a familial rapport with President Trump. Lockheed Martin donated nearly $59,000 to Graham in 2018.





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