Reports that President Barack Obama will tap former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican who had as many arguments with his own party as he did with Democrats, for the top job at the Pentagon has led some special interests to launch an ad campaign against him. But for former aides to the Cornhusker senator working for clients in the defense industry, Hagel winning the top job in the military means having a friend in a high place.
Lobbyists who once worked for the Nebraska lawmaker represent a host of companies that do business with the Department of Defense. Their clients include some of the biggest names in the defense industry–manufacturers of everything from ships to missiles, from periscopes to submarines.
They include Chad Wolf of Wexler Walker, whose firm bio calls him a "key advisor to homeland security and defense contractors." Wolf, who worked as an aide to Hagel for more than two years before joining the Transportation Security Administration in 2002, lobbies for American Science & Engineering, which provides the military with vehicle and cargo screening devices, military communications equipment maker Harris Corporation, and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of defense industry titans Lockeed Martin and Boeing, which provides missiles to the military.
Raytheon, the aerospace contractor which ranks third among Defense contractors, with $13.4 billion awarded in 2012, employs Mark Esper as its top lobbyist. Among other Capitol Hill jobs, the former Army colonel served Hagel as legislative director and senior policy adviser. The company has spent more than $5 million lobbying in the first three quarters of 2012, with Defense and federal appropriations the issues they've mentioned most frequently on their dislcosures.
GOP political operative Robert Collins, Hagel's press secretary in 2002 before becoming the chief of staff and right hand man to Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., until 2010 served as president of the American Action Network, a conservative dark money group, until 2011, and is currently on the board of Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-affiliated nonprofit that spent more than $70 million in the election. Collins is also a partner at Purple Strategies and a registered lobbyist for its Purple Advocacy subsidiary. Among his clients is Huntington Ingalls Industries, the biggest supplier of ships for the U.S. Navy. The company, spun off from Northrop Grumman in 2011, has won more than $5.6 billion in Defense Department contracts since, according to data in USASpending.gov.
With the fiscal cliff looming and the threat of cuts in Defense spending if it's not averted, these companies could have insider connections if Obama nominates Hagel and he is confirmed by the Senate