Investigative journalist Dina Rasor is now on the Buck McKeon beat—not good news for an embattled incumbent drowning in a series of serious scandals, some just ethical, but at least one also criminal. She's especially dangerous to McKeon, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, because he's more than just your run-of-the-mill, garden variety crook.
Rasor founded the Project on Military Procurement (now called the Project on Government Oversight, or POGO) to serve as a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog over military and related government spending. She knows where the bodies are buried—and she's well aware that the corruption and rot isn't just about Republicans, but that it has encompassed corrupt conservative Democrats as well. There's just something about conservatism and corruption that go hand-in-hand. Always has been, always will be.
Rasor claims in a blockbuster new post at Truthout that McKeon, whose rise to fame was engineered by his fealty to John Boehner, "has taken self-dealing to new heights and is having those same contractors contribute to his wife's campaign for the California legislature."
It comes as no surprise that McKeon has served as an in-house patsy for Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and other deep-pocketed defense contractors.
Another extraordinary investigative journalist, Lee Lang has exposed the connections between McKeon's bribe-vacuuming operation and his wife's campaign for the California state Assembly. She's getting money—and lots of it—from defense contractors who have never contributed to California legislative campaigns in the past.
Republic Report looked into the claim that Patricia’s defense industry contributors are simply local businesses, and found a startling pattern. Many of her defense lobbyist benefactors are first time California donors, while others appear to be reviving their California accounts only to help Patricia:
- The lobbying firm Beau Boulter, which represents drone manufacturers, gave Patricia McKeon $1,000. This is the first donation the firm has made in California.
- Joseph Kimmett, a government affairs executive with the defense contractor OshKosh, gave Patricia McKeon $500. OshKosh has no other recorded donations in California state politics.
- Cliff Madison Government Affairs, a lobbying firm in DC, gave $1,000 to Patricia McKeon. The firm has no other recorded donations in California state politics.
- The Fund for American Opportunity, a 527 political group run by Mark Valente, a lobbyist with defense contractor clients, gave $1,000 to Patricia McKeon. The Fund for American Opportunity has not given to any other California state politicians in recently years.
- Lockheed Martin gave Patricia McKeon $1,000. The donation was the only donation from the company to a California state legislature candidate in over a decade
Rasor's report paints an even bleaker picture for Mr. and Mrs. McKeon (as well as for their sons who they are trying to set up—mostly with limited suceess—in the family business).
McKeon has also been a major protector of the defense budget, complaining bitterly about the first round of cuts, which were really just cuts in the increase of the defense budget, and has gone almost apoplectic over the specter of deeper cuts as outlined in the sequestration budget. He is also a major defender of failing weapons with immense efforts recently to protect the plague-prone and prohibitively expensive F-35 fighter, which just failed one of its test flights again on Monday due to a fuel leak. The financial management of the plane by Lockheed has also become so bad that the Department of Defense (DoD) has taken the unusual step of withholding some of Lockheed's monthly payments on the F-35, about a million dollars a month or 2 percent of the billings, until Lockheed fixes the problem.
The F-35, built by Lockheed Martin, has had a dreadful procurement process with both technical and monetary problems for over a decade, but McKeon has been a staunch defender through it all. He is also falling on his sword for other notoriously flawed weapons in other areas of the Pentagon.
Enter Patricia McKeon, Buck's wife. She has been his campaign treasurer for years and is one of the highest-paid Congressional wives. She is 70 years old and touts her role as a mother of six and a grandmother of 31. She proudly lists her background as head of the PTA and involvement in the Boy Scouts. She now has declared her candidacy for the 38th District of the California Assembly. She said that she was inspired to run after being outraged that Los Angeles plans to place a 10-cent tax on plastic grocery bags.
Well it turns out that many of our major defense contractors are also outraged over this tax on plastic bags and/or other regulations that might be rattling around the California State Assembly. These major companies have given this first-time candidate around 45 percent of her campaign money so far.
... McKeon has other potential problems, but this co-mingling of his wife's run for office with help from his staff, and the defense contractors' sudden concern about a Los Angeles plastic bag tax is unusually shameless.
I dutifully called the four largest DoD company contributors, Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon and General Dynamics, for comment. The General Dynamics corporate spokesman, Kendall Pease, told me that his company is concerned about regulations in California and they contributed to Patricia McKeon's campaign because she could do something about regulations in California. That statement sounded familiar and it was because I had read about it before, albeit as a statement from her press person, which matched Pease's theory of why they, as a large defense company, would care about a State Legislature campaign.
Turns out that another former staff member of McKeon's, Andre Hollings, also wrote an unflattering guest column in West Ranch Beacon.com, quoting her press person's pretzeled logic on why she got the contributions:
Many will say, with Mrs. McKeon's spokesperson Joe Justin's wounded pretense, that defense firms view her as the "best positioned candidate" to effect regulatory reform in California. And it is "demeaning" to her to assert otherwise.
I asked the General Dynamics spokesperson if he really was asserting that what Patricia's husband did had nothing to do with their contribution and it was their company's concern about regulations in California that prompted their contribution to her campaign. I wanted to give him a chance to back off of a statement that doesn't pass the laugh test and perhaps he would want to have some type of fig leaf of admission to the obvious. He grew quiet and then said that he would get back to me before the deadline. I did not hear from him after contacting him again by email and phone.
Raytheon decided that they would not comment at all. Boeing also did not get back to me as promised after several contacts. Lockheed gave me the following statement, which doesn't even touch the question I asked regarding if they gave to her campaign because of her husband's job:
"Lockheed Martin supports a wide range of federal, state and local political leaders based on their level of interest and commitment in national security, homeland security, and other issues of importance to the corporation including education and technology. In our experience, we've never seen a more problematic economic and global security environment in the U.S. and in so many economies around the world ..."
I also asked the Lockheed spokesman again to try to get a quote that was on point to the issues I asked him, but he stuck like glue to his original Byzantine quote.
This is self-dealing at its worst. Chairman McKeon is blatantly using his paid Congressional staff to help his wife's campaign, and his wife is accepting contributions from major defense contractors under the ridiculous guise that they are interested in her and her Assembly race because of regulations. All of them, including the defense contractors, expect the public to believe that this has nothing to do with McKeon's incredible influence on the money that is going to their companies. They don't even try for a fig leaf, and don't seem to care at all that this does not pass the laugh test. They have their lobbyists and deals in place and know that the Congress won't do anything, and the public will be irate for a short time until the next self-dealing scandal emerges ... the public has had so much of this without consequence that they are just shrugging their shoulders.
This is deeply cynical behavior for all concerned in this sad tale of self-dealing because they don't really care what the public thinks as they don't believe that there will be any consequences. And the sad part about it is that they are right. I don't know if McKeon will get in trouble in the Countrywide loan probe but, at the very least, there should be some outrage over using staff, paid with tax dollars, to help with his wife's California Assembly campaign.
The complete disregard for the true reasons for the campaign contributions by the defense contractors to her campaign in order to influence her husband is nothing short of a back-door bribe. As I quoted from Jack Abramoff's book Capitol Punishment in last week's column:
What I did not consider then and never considered until I was sitting in prison, was that contributions from parties with an interest in legislation are really nothing but bribes. Sure, it's legal for the most part. Sure, everyone in Washington does it. Sure it's the way the system works. It's one of Washington's dirty little secrets—but it's bribery just the same ...
This is the same bribery, just one step removed from any laws by channeling money to his wife for the same favors.
It really is up to the voters in the end. Politicians and political systems are notoriously bad at policing themselves, for obvious reasons. And it really is up to an aroused citizenry to make sure this kind of behavior by careerist politicians like McKeon is not allowed to go on. The voters in Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Porter Ranch and the Antelope Valley are getting a pretty good idea about what their sleazy congressman and his sleazy wife have been up to.
In November they'll either give him the thumbs up to continue to rob them blind or they'll replace him. And if they do decide to replace him, they're luckier than many voters because they have an excellent replacement waiting in the wings; a young surgeon, father of two young children, who is driven not by a desire to enrich himself, but by a desire to help solve the country's and his community's problems.
Lee Rogers is that man, a progressive Democrat who has been endorsed by Blue America and who will be live-blogging with us on Tuesday morning in the comments section (11am, PT). If you'd like, you can contribute to his campaign here. He doesn't sell special interest favors ... the way his opponent does.