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March 04, 2011

Budget Cutting 101

By crewstaff

CW Bill YoungIt turns out House Republicans’ zeal for budget-cutting seems to fade when it conflicts with their passion for campaign donations.

Bloomberg News reports that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scolding the House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations for efforts to preserve $900 million for Humvee vehicles the Army says it doesn’t need. Sec. Gates says the money should be shifted to pay for more pressing programs.  The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank was even more forceful about Sec. Gates’ exchange with the committee.

Gates couldn't get the lawmakers to agree to his urgent - and modest - request to shift $1.2 billion in Pentagon funds to protect soldiers' lives in Afghanistan. He asked for the money a month ago, but [Rep. C. W. Bill] Young's committee hadn't acted.

Why? Because Young objects to the money being taken away from the Army's Humvee program. Never mind that the Army has more Humvees than it wants. They are manufactured by AM General - which happens to be Young's third-largest campaign contributor. Its executives have funneled him more than $80,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

AM General isn’t giving up without a fight. The company is relying on what has long been a winning battle plan in Washington – steady campaign contributions and well-connected lobbyists.

The Center for Responsive Politics’ data reveals that AM General is Rep. Young’s (R-FL) third-largest campaign contributor. Other members of the subcommittee, including ranking member Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), and Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN), also raked in contributions from the company during the 2010 election cycle.

Meanwhile, the company’s lobbying jumped from $160,000 in 2009 to $220,000 in 2010, a 38% spike, according to lobbying disclosure records. Benefitting from the revolving door, AM General added former Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ) to a roster of lobbyists that already included the well-known firm Van Scoyoc Associates.

Sec. Gates has every right to be peeved. CREW has been highlighting for years how big time campaign contributors frequently are protected by the politicians they prop up. This is just a particularly reprehensible example.

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