The Favor Factory: Earmarks and Campaign Cash Connections


Three members of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee have received an average of $102,600 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of the companies they’ve favored with earmarks in the first six months of 2007. The rest of the members of the subcommittee have netted collectively $180,000an average of about $12,800 per memberfrom the beneficiaries of their earmarks.

While Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., directed the bulk of their earmarks to companies whose employees and political action committees donated to their campaigns, their colleagues on the 17-member Defense Appropriations subcommittee requested earmarks for companies that, for the most part, contributed little or nothing to their campaigns, according to an analysis of earmark data provided by Taxpayers for Common Sense and an analysis campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the Federal Election Commission.

Reps. Murtha and Visclosky’s office did not return our phone calls and Rep. Moran’s office chose not to respond to our questions.

Murtha was tops among lawmakers both for directing some $166 million in taxpayer funds to 47 recipients and raking in $113,050 in donations from the companies that his earmarks funded. Moran was second in receiving contributions from beneficiaries of his earmarks, taking in $99,000. But when it came to sponsoring earmarks, Moran barely cracked the top ten, scoring some $41 million worth of earmarks.

Moran received contributions from 18 of the 27 firms for which he provided earmarks. Murtha got donations from 21 of 30 firms, and Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., received contributions from 11 of the 22 companies to which he doled out earmarks $95,000 in all.

By contrast, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who was the fifth most profligate defense earmarker, received just $6,000 from employees of two of the 12 companies that benefited from the $44 million in federal appropriations he directed. Rep. Nancy Kaptur, D-Ohio earmarked $44 million to 18 recipients and three of these companies have contributed, to date, $4,500 to her campaign committee. Kaptur’s contributions came from the University Hospitals of Cleveland, the Parametric Technology Corporation — a multi-national consulting company that provides software solutions to the Navy — and a much smaller company, Ares Inc., based in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, sponsored 11 defense earmarks worth a total of $50 million; in the current election cycle, his campaign committees have received campaign contributions of $2,000 from just one company, McNally Industries.

Big Donors, Small Businesses

Most of the companies whose employees and PACs contribute to the campaigns of members who sponsor earmarks for them are relatively small players in the defense industry, which giants like Lockheed Martin ($32 billion in federal contracts in 2006) and Boeing ($21 billion the same year) dominate.

Three Northern Virginia companies have received defense earmarks worth $2 million each from Moran and have given liberally to his campaign or his leadership PAC, the Virginia Leadership PAC, in 2007Prologic Inc., Planning Systems Inc. (PSI) and Progeny Systems Corporation. Yet Progeny Systems and Prologic both receive “innovation research” grants and contracts from the Small Business Administration; in 2006, Prologic’s annual revenue was $40 millionby contrast, Lockheed Martin’s was $39.6 billion. Until it was acquired by QinetiQ North America in 2005, PSI won federal contracts under the Defense Department’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

The trio ranked among the top five contributors to Moran’s campaign in the 2006 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and are big donors in 2007, FEC records show.

In 2006, employees of Prologic Inc., Planning Systems Inc. and Progeny Systems Corporation gave a total of $74,900 to Moran; in the first six months of 2007 they’ve contributed $29,400. Employees of Prologic and Planning Systems donated almost $20,000 on June 8, 2007, according to FEC records. On that date, the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee held hearings on the 2008 spending bill. Meanwhile, all of Progeny’s contributions to Moran came on March 18 three days after the initial deadline for members to submit all earmark requests.

Prologic’s $2 million earmark from Moran was for the MEDSTARS Integration with Global Combat Support System” program which is managed by the Air Force. This is part of an ongoing project for which Prologic is custom designing a computer program that documents and assesses patient injury, details of the particular incident and the medical treatment.

According to the company’s Web site, Prologic Inc. provides information technology solutions to many government agencies including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and NASA. The company received six earmarks in the House version of the Defense Appropriations Bill worth $13 million, and has made campaign contributions this year to others on the defense appropriations subcommittee, including both Murtha and Visclosky.

Planning Systems Inc. received an earmark for a Submarine Tactical Warfare System” from the Navy. Its employees made contributions totaling $12,000 to Moran while those of Progeny Systems donated $7,000 to Moran’s leadership PAC this year.

Neither Prologic nor Progeny Systems responded to our phone calls and e-mail, but Sophie Barrett, a spokesperson for QinetiQ, PSI’s parent company, explained the donations in an email: Broad industry support for Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation over the years speaks for itself. In terms of individuals making decisions to personally support a candidate, that is a personal choice made by each individual.”

Following earmarks over the years

Rep.Visclosky’s major contributor this year has been from another small defense contractor, 21st Century Systems, whose employees contributed more than $17,000 to his campaign in 2007. The company creates various software applications that are used by many agencies within the Department of Defense.

According to the company’s Web site, All of 21st Century Systems, Inc.’s (21CSI) government contracts have been competitively awarded through the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program in accordance with Federal regulations.” Yet the company received a $2.3 million earmark in 2005, according to the Office of Management and Budget , and is in line to receive another requested by Visclosky worth $2.5 million in 2008.

21st Century Systems did not respond to our phone calls and email.

Visclosky’s relationship with some of the companies he has given earmarks to dates back to 2004. In November of that year he secured earmarks to build the Purdue Technology Center and two months later spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the facility.

During the same period he also helped bring companies such as Prologic Inc., 21st Century Systems and Sierra Nevada Corporation to the Center. And according to Center for Responsive Politics data, these companies have been some of the major contributors to his campaign. Employees of the companies, which each received earmarks worth $2.5 million, have given more than $100,000 to Visclosky’s campaign since 2004 and more than $43,000 in 2007.

Murtha’s Medical Research Earmarks

Not every earmark goes to a campaign contributor, even among members who raised the most money from their earmark recipients.

Murtha directed several earmarks to medical research organizations, some of which are non-profits, in his district. But the funds he is pumping into medical research programs appear to address health problems that affect the general population, and are not related to illnesses and injuries that have higher incidences in military service.

One of Murtha’s biggest earmarks, for $15 million, went to the Windber Research Institute as part of the Military Molecular Medicine Initiative (M3I). Windber is a nonprofit that gets almost all is annual revenuejust over $9 million in 2005, according to its most recent IRS form 990from government grants.

Although Windber employees do not appear to make any donations to Murtha’s campaign, the institution’s Web site proudly acknowledges Murtha’s support.

The M3I program aims to reduce the mortality rate because of breast cancer among American women,” according to Lee Bronfman, administrative director for the clinical breast care project at Walter Reed Hospital, one of the partners in the project. The program makes use of active duty and retired military women, men and their dependents, some of whom are enrolled in research projects that are conducted by the Wilber Research Institute as part of their treatment.

Murtha also earmarked $7 million for the John P. Murtha Pain and Neuroscience Center Research Program which is run by the Conemaugh Health Systems and $2 million to St. Francis University for a Rural Health CERMUSA” program, described as an Army Advanced Medical Technology” grant.