In Key Senate Job, Ex-Lockheed Exec Replaced by Ex-Lockheed Lobbyist


Lockheedby Justin Elliott ProPublica, April 24, 2013, 12:07 p.m.

Last year, we told you about how former Lockheed Martin executive Ann Sauer had been hired to be the top Republican staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sauer got $1.6 million from Lockheed, including a buyout, before being hired by Sen. John McCain to come back to Capitol Hill, where she had previously worked as a staffer. Watchdogs cried foul.

With McCain stepping down as ranking member of the committee, Sauer left the job on the Armed Services Committee earlier this year and now works as a federal budget expert for hire.

Her replacement? Another former Hill staffer who went to work with large military contractors 2014 including Lockheed.

John Bonsell, the new staff director for the Republicans on the committee, spent five years as a lobbyist for military contractors such as Boeing, GE Aviation, BAE Systems, and SAIC. He made $276,400 in 2011, his final year as a lobbyist, a disclosure form shows. Bonsell did not respond to our requests for comment.

Bonsell takes the Armed Services Committee job at an especially fraught time for military contractors: the industry has been fighting 2014 so far unsuccessfully 2014 budget cuts that kicked in under sequestration last month.

Before working as a lobbyist, Bonsell had a two-decade career in the Army including a stint as chief of concepts and doctrine on the Army staff at the Pentagon. After that, he became a legislative assistant to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., in 2001.

In 2007, he joined Robison International, a lobby shop focusing on military issues that is led by a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs named Randall West.

After five years as a lobbyist, Bonsell rejoined Inhofe’s staff in 2012 as legislative director. Earlier this year, when Inhofe took over from McCain as ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, he hired Bonsell to be staff director.

Asked if Bonsell’s previous role as a lobbyist for industry players presents any conflict, Inhofe spokeswoman Donelle Harder said the senator views that work as a plus.

“Due to his 20 plus years of service in the U.S. Army and his post-retirement career, Sen. Inhofe finds John Bonsell uniquely qualified to understand the perspective of both the government and the private sector as the committee works to address unprecedented challenges with the future of our national defense,” she wrote in an email.

Inhofe has said that his top priority is to avoid military budget cuts.

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