Campaign Contributions and the Contracts They Buy

Are campaign contributions really an investment made in order to be given preferential treatment if a candidate is elected to public office? We are lead to believe by politicians that they are not overtly influenced by campaign contributions, and that these contributions are given by those that agree with their policy positions.

What if campaign contributors also stand to gain from government contracts? The Sunlight Foundation reports that campaign contributions help companies land government contracts, and this can mean millions of dollars in return on their investment.

According to a recent study by St. Louis University professor Christopher Witko, there is a connection between campaign contributions and government contracts. The study, “Campaign Contributions, Access, and Government Contracting,” examined campaign contributions and contracts from 1979 to 2006, and found that “significant relationship between contributions and the receipt of future contracts.”

The study concluded that for every $201,220 a company contributes to campaigns, they can expect an additional 107 government contracts. In 2006 the average government contract was $49,800, which would place the value of 107 contracts at approximately $5.3 million. It is also worth noting that during the time period examined in the study (2000 through 2007the number of no-bid contracts tripled, reaching 207 billion. By 2005 approximately 40% of contracts did not arise from full competitive bidding processes.

Government records show that in fiscal year 2011 $536.8 billion in contracts to were awarded by private companies. The Department of Defense spent more money on contracts than any other government agency, by far. That year the DOD issued contracts worth $374 billion. The next closest agency was the Department of Energy, which issued $25.1 billion in contracts.

The defense giants racked in the most amount of government money. Lockheed Martin earned the most in government contracts, receiving $39.9 billion. Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon received $21.4 billion, $19.4 billion, and $14.7 billion, respectively. All four of these companies are among the most generous contributors to political campaigns. If the numbers are any indication, they are getting significant returns on their investments. Since 1989, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamic, and Raytheon contributed $22 million, $17.6 million, $13.8 million, $12.6 million, respectively.

During the current election cycle, Lockheed Martin has spent $1.9 million on influencing political campaigns. The company contributed the most to Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon. Chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, McKeon received $64,250 from the defense giant. He is opposed to cuts in the defense budget, which would include a reduction in contracts from Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors. Additionally Lockheed Martin contributed $49,950 Rep. Kay Granger, who sits on the House Committee on Appropriations’s Subcommittee on Defense.

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