• Eugene Puryear

Blood Money: War Industry Sends Huge Sums to Congress Members Who Vote to Buy Their Weapons


The following is a lightly edited transcription from The Punch Out with Eugene Puryear, a daily news podcast that comes out Monday through Friday, 5pm ET. Subscribe here.


We reported to you earlier this month about how the U.S. House of Representatives passed their $839 billion war budget, which now heads to the Senate. In the likely reconciliation proceeding, the House will combine their bill with a slightly larger one making its way through the Senate. They will come up with a massive “compromise” bill that will set a trajectory toward spending $8 trillion on war and empire over the next decade, all without discussion or questions asked.


The silence around these bills has a lot to do with just how many politicians are on the take from the military-industrial complex. More than that, this complex spreads out their production facilities in a broad range of states to build support from the struggling masses looking for decent work and the Congresspeople in their districts. On top of it all is the broader imperial ideological complex that promotes the idea that the United States has the right and duty to control the entire world. Taken together, hardly anyone stands up to the mammoth military budget.


But we should not overlook the fundamental issue of campaign donations. The watchdog group Public Citizen has put together a report that shows just some of who is taking the biggest payoffs, and (you might not be surprised) how those people are voting for these war budgets.


Overall, Public Citizen notes, “The analysis in this report shows that, in the current election cycle, the military-industrial complex gave $10.2 million to members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee prior to their votes this June to increase overall defense spending for FY23.”


The report further states, “Specifically, House Armed Services Committee members who voted ‘yes’ to increasing the FY23 Pentagon budget [above what Biden’s original budget request was] by $37.5 billion on June 22, 2022, received a total of $3 million from the defense industry in the 2022 election cycle. Senate Armed Services Committee members who voted ‘yes’ to increasing the FY23 Pentagon budget by $45 billion on June 16, 2022, received a total of $7.2 million from the defense industry in the 2022 election cycle.”


It also compares the amounts between those who voted yes versus no. “Notably, the average campaign contribution from the military-industrial complex to a member of the House or Senate Armed Services Committee who voted ‘yes’ to increase military spending for FY23 is more than triple the average campaign contribution from the military-industrial complex to those who voted ‘no.’”


As one example, Rhode Island Democratic Senator and Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee Jack Reed has received $822,757 from the military-industrial complex in the 2022 election cycle. This is the second highest contribution in the Senate Armed Services Committee, as ranking member Republican Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma raked in $874,876 in the same period. Neither of them are up for re-election this year, so this is just money in the bank.


Alabama Representative and ranking member in the House Armed Services Committee Mike Rogers was the top recipient in his committee, getting $404,525. Democrats on the Armed Services committees alone received $4,476,436 and Republicans $5,688,908.


This is not even close to comprehensive. Other members of Congress not on this committee also received contributions. And these are just the public records of regular donations and PAC funding. Who really knows how much is being funneled into affiliated Super PACs which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from individuals, groups, and companies? When South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham ran for reelection back in 2016, for instance, by the halfway point in the race $3 million had been poured into his Super PAC, with many big checks from military contractors. So beyond the donations that are easy to track, there is obviously much more.


So there you have it: If you’re in Congress—where fundraising already takes up more time than legislating—it certainly pays off to be on the Armed Services Committee to send trillions in tax dollars directly into the pockets of the military-industrial complex. In Washington one hand washes the other, while the rest of the world suffers the consequences.