Retiring Armed Forces Chair to Cash In as Lobbyist

Former Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon is just weeks out from retiring from Congress, where he served as chair of the powerful House Armed Services Committee.  Not wasting any time, McKeon this week announced the formation a consulting firm where he plans on being “outspoken for a strong national defense.” 

The move, reported in the Santa Clarita Valley News, is just the latest stage of a career in which McKeon has raked in millions  from military contractors.  Since the 2000 election, according to Open Secrets, McKeon collected over $8,000,000 in defense-related campaign contributions.  In the 2011 cycle, his top six contributors were military contractors Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman, General Atomics, Boeing, and BAE Systems.

McKeon certainly has delivered value to his donors.  In 2012, the Nation’s Lee Fang wrote

Name a weapons program the Pentagon doesn’t want, and it’s likely McKeon has gone to bat for it. Earlier this year, McKeon produced language in the defense budget that included a new missile defense shield for the east coast—a multi-million dollar program derided by General Martin Dempsey as unnecessary. McKeon led a campaign to demand that the government fund a second engine program for the F-35—at a cost of $450 million a year—over protests from the Pentagon that the program had no use it all. McKeon is also pressing for additional purchases of F-35’s, against the wishes of the Obama administration, despite the fact that the fighter jet is shaping up to be the most expensive weapon in human history, with a lifetime cost of $1.45 trillion.

In addition, McKeon was also a leader in the fight against sequestration of the defense budget.  And, according to Fang, McKeon was a founder and chair of the Congressional Drone Caucus.

As CEO of The McKeon Group LLC, the former congressman will be barred from personal lobbying contacts for a scant one-year cooling off period.  Even during that time, he will be free to acquire clients, plan advocacy campaigns and supervise the lobbying work of his staff.

McKeon didn’t walk through the revolving door alone.  He’s taking former chief of staff Bob Cochran with him.  According to LittleSis, other former McKeon staffers now working as lobbyists for the defense industry include Josh Holly (lobbying for Podesta Group clients BAE and Lockheed Martin), Hans Heinrichs, and Roger Zackheim.

Ex-House Staffer Reaps Rewards as Defense Lobbyist

Minuteman_III_ICBM_shoots_out_of_the_silo Wikimedia Blog 1-18-2015

Earlier this month, the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics profiled some of the former Congressional members and staffers now free to lobby their former colleagues.  One worth noting is Mary Springer, who just over a year ago left her job as chief-of-staff for Virginia’s Rep. Robert Wittman, who is chairman of the House Armed Service’s readiness subcommittee. Springer almost immediately went to work for DRS Technologies, a defense electronics firm.  She became head of legislative affairs for DRS.  The one-year lobbying bar that just expired prohibited her having direct contact former colleagues.  However, in her new position Springer was immediately able to engage in other lobbying-related activities.

Springer’s new employer has contracts related to nuclear weapons.  In 2013, DRS won a $25 million contract to construct missile transporter vehicles for Minuteman III ICBM missiles.  The contract provides total potential revenues of $92 million.  The vehicles are part of Pentagon efforts to modernize its nuclear forces.  In addition, DRS states on on its website that  “We have a long history designing and manufacturing Environmental Control Systems and auxiliary products for the Minuteman ICBM system that require a unique ruggedness and reliability to meet the demands of the nuclear environment.”

But nuclear weapons systems are just one area of the defense industry in which DRS does business.  Its website lists a wide variety of products in areas such as electronic warfare, avionics, sonar, and intelligence.  The company also serves the commercial nuclear industry.

According to the Open Secrets lobbying database, DRS spent $620,000 on lobbying in 2014.

Springer’s former boss, Congressman Wittman, received $221,000 from the defense industry in the 2014 election cycle.  That includes $8,500 from the DRS corporate PAC, $4,500 of it after Springer went to work for DRS.  Who will he work for after his congressional career?