McKeon’s lobbying firm inks campaign contributor as client

Rep. Buck McKeon at lectern in front of an American flag wearing blue tie
Rep. McKeon delivering remarks on the USS California, the Republican chaired the Armed Services Committee from 2011 to 2014. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Former California GOP congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon opted to forego a run for a 12th term in the House last November, but in his new career he’ll still be working closely with some of the friends he made on the campaign trail.

A lobbying disclosure form made public on Thursday shows that the former Armed Services Committee chair’s nascent lobby shop inked a new client in February. The firm will represent Aerojet Rocketdyne, a major defense contractor and campaign contributor to McKeon, in addition to the Association of Catastrophe Adjusters and the Cormac Group. The disclosure document was collected by Sunlight’s lobbying registration tracker.

Robert Cochran, McKeon’s former chief of staff, had lobbied for the rocket engine manufacturer when he worked for Porter Gordon Silver, and will continue to do so in his new post at the McKeon group.

Campaign finance data compiled by shows that employees of GenCorp, Aerojet’s parent company, contributed $31,000 to the California Republican’s campaign efforts from 2006 to 2014.

Gencorp is just one of a bevy of defense contractors that supported McKeon, a staunch guardian of military readiness and spending over the years. Individuals employed by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman alone accounted for more than $360,000 in donations, according to data compiled by

In his new life, McKeon wasted no time in repositioning himself as a consultant to the same industry he oversaw — and advocated for — in Congress.

Although federal law bars McKeon from lobbying his former colleagues until 2016, he’s not prohibited from offering certain “strategic analysis, advocacy and comprehensive government relations.” That language comes from a press release about the new firm, which was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity.

A large rocket propulsion system in testing
An Aerojet Rocketdyne engine undergoing testing. The company builds engines for space exploration and missile defense. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The former congressman has plenty of company in the burgeoning political intelligence industry. A recent Sunlight Foundation analysis of recently retired House members and staffers found 42 out of the 104 former civil servants we researched had already moved to higher paying jobs in the government relations world, leveraging their insider experience for their new clients’ political portfolios.

As for which specific issues McKeon Group will be tackling for Aerojet Rocketdyne, that remains to be seen. Calls to the company and to McKeon’s firm were not immediately returned.

Publicly disclosed reports show the defense contractor maintains a steady lobbying presence and has devoted more than $9.8 million to federal lobbying since 1998.

The corporation has targeted legislation covering a wide range of topics over that time period, from military appropriations bills to the Safe Drinking Water for Healthy Communities Act of 2007, which would have required the Environmental Protection Agency to draw stricter regulations governing the amount of perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket propellant, allowable in drinking water. The bill failed to clear the House.

In September 2011, the EPA ordered Aerojet to conduct a $60 million clean-up of rocket fuel-polluted groundwater in a Superfund site around the company’s plant in Rancho Cordova, Calif., where it has operated since the 1950s.

In a phone call with Sunlight after this piece was published, Cochran told Sunlight “This [Aerojet Rocketdyne] is my client from my previous employer…I brought that client with me… As far as Mr. McKeon, I will be consulting with him and he will be providing strategic advice. He personally will not be doing any lobbying.”