Monday, June 15, 2009

Wire: Obama Pick for Army Chief Pushed Defense Earmarks

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that before he was named by President Barack Obama to be the next Army secretary, Rep. John M. McHugh of New York had asked Congress to set aside tens of millions of dollars in next year's budget for defense contractors that now could fall under his command as the Army's civilian leader.

The Washington Times reported that McHugh, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, requested that more than $40 million in "earmarks" be inserted into a 2010 defense appropriations bill, including more than $8 million benefiting an Army base in his home state, according to records.

The Washington Times noted the following details:
[Mr. McHugh's] wish list also included $4.7 million for Lockheed Martin, one of the Army's largest contractors, whose products range from tactical missiles to battlefield combat systems. Lockheed's employees and political action committee have been sources of political cash for Mr. McHugh, accounting for $35,000 in campaign donations over the years, according the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Criticized by some as pork-barrel spending, earmarks are the special spending provisions that members of Congress slip into spending bills to direct money to pet projects.

A spokeswoman said Mr. McHugh won't be involved in any contracting decisions as Army secretary if his nomination is confirmed and that he never let campaign contributions affect his decisions as a congressman.
McHugh also requested $2 million for Rockwell Collins Inc., an Iowa-based defense contractor with a facility in upstate New York. Until earlier this year, the company was a client of the troubled PMA Group lobbying firm, which closed recently after reports that the FBI had raided the firm amid an investigation into suspected campaign-finance violations, the Washington Times said.

McHugh secured $18.6 million overall in earmarks in 2008, ranking him 243rd in the Congress, according to a review of earmark practices by Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Still, Leslie Paige, spokeswoman for the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste, said all members -- including McHugh -- should be questioned about any earmarks they directed to PMA clients, according to the Washington Times.

"The entire PMA client roster needs to be examined," she said. "Someone should ask these questions of him. Given the questions about PMA, he should be prepared to answer whether he's ever accepted campaign contributions for an earmark."

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: EXCLUSIVE: Pick for Army chief pushed defense earmarks

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