Guest Column: Profits from private military contractors help finance Manzullo

The 110th Congress started the New Year with new rules intended to curb the influence of lobbyists. The new rules cut out such perks from lobbyists as free meals, trips, stadium box seats and discounted use of private jets.

However, some lawmakers, such as U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-16), quickly found ways to continue their fun at the expense of corporate lobbyists. They have found ways for lobbyists to pay within the new rules. Just goes to show you can change the game, but not the conscience of the players. After all, rules were meant to be broken, or at least bent. Any lawmaker will tell you that.

Now, instead of paying for the bill directly, the lobbyists pay a political fund-raising committee and, in turn, the committee pays the Congressman’s way.

According to the New York Times, lobbyists say the rules might even increase the volume of contributions flowing from K Street.

Manzullo made the New York Times’ list of events at which corporate lobbyists mingle with members of Congress with his sixth annual Valentine’s Day reception at Landini Brothers in Alexandria, Va. The price of admittance was $1,500 and a significant other was free.

This is not new for Manzullo. He has had many cozy meetings with influence-pushers since his first trip to Washington, D.C., in 1992. He has been right there with his Republican colleagues during the many ethics violations. Manzullo has been one of the many benefactors of K Street’s booming influence business.

Take, for example, his contributions from private Pentagon contractors. From 1992 through the 2006 election cycle, Manzullo has received more than $190,000 from defense contractors. Listed here are some of his biggest campaign contributors who benefit from the war in Iraq. Top contributors to his campaign since 1992:

United Technologies, $50,893

Caterpillar Inc., $43,500

AT&T, $32,000

Boeing Co., $26,200

DaimlerChrysler, $23,880

Also, his largest single contributor to his 2006 race was Supply Core, Inc., which contributed more than $14,000.

Supply Core, Inc., is in Rockford at 303 N. Main St., Suite 800, near the Rock River, in Manzullo’s district. It has earned more than $100 million dollars from 1998 to 2003 with defense contracts.

Supply Core is an example of war profits turning a young, small company into one of the fastest-growing companies in America. Supply Core is just one private contractor like hundreds of others collecting billions of taxpayer dollars. In December 2003, Supply Core, Inc., was awarded the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Maintenance, Repair and Operation (MRO) Prime Vendor Contract for Iraq. It was then, of course, that Supply Core’s profits started to go through the roof. Then, in January 2005, it was awarded the MRO Prime Vendor Contract for The CENTCOM Region, supporting U.S. activities deployed in 24 countries in Northern Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. According to their press release in May 2006, “Supply Core Inc. has steadily become one of the leading integrated suppliers offering integrated logistics, supply chain management, and Web-based procurement of MRO material for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines as well as other federal government organizations.”

For example, in May 2006, they were awarded a defense contract (in addition to many) for the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) Warehouse Operation.

Perhaps Manzullo knows why—since Supply Core, one of his largest supporters, is in charge of body armor—it is that Army and Marine Corps commanders have reported a shortage of body armor, among many other necessary supplies such as guns, ammunition and trucks. Maybe that $14,000 could have been put to another use to ensure our troops were adequately protected?

It would seem that since Manzullo is a staunch supporter of President George W. Bush’s policy in Iraq he would at least want to see the troops adequately protected. Maybe he will be checking into this “dire situation.”

Manzullo was picked to serve on the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, despite his grade of “F” on the Citizens for Global Solutions Report Card in 2005 and 2006. The nonpartisan organization grades representatives on how they voted on global issues that range from climate change to nuclear proliferation, torture and peacekeeping funding. Maybe Manzullo will work to raise his grade.

However, if his new interpretation of the rule changes is any indication, I expect he will earn a failing grade again. I also suspect that since he seems so dependent upon the financial support of war profiteers that he will be voting for a continual increase in military spending. Even though the war has already cost the taxpayers of his district well more than $200 million.

Of course, like Major General Smedley D. Butler said more than 70 years ago: “War is a racket. It always has been.”

We all pray that it will not always be so.

from the Aug. 22-28, 2007, issue

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