Four Democratic candidates have sworn off all PAC contributions. Nine have pledged not to take money from the fossil fuel industry. But what do the candidates say–and do–about contributions from the arms industry?
So far, not much. Almost 60 years ago, retiring Republican President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the “unwarranted influence” of the “military-industrial complex” on the U.S. politics. Campaign contributions are one way that America’s biggest defense contractors, like Raytheon and Lockheed, wield influence. They supply the legitimate functions of the armed services, support military operations in 133 countries and enjoy rising share prices thanks to brutal wars in places like Yemen.
None of the 2020 Democrats turn down contributors from the military industrial complex. So how much do they take in?
Last week, the 17 men and women running for the Democratic presidential nomination provided some answers. They filed their first campaign contribution reports with the Federal Election Commission.
Q. Which candidates took the most money from self-identified employees of the country’s seven biggest defense contractors?
The sums are not large in themselves but they say something about the candidates’ constituency and appeal. Buttigieg is a former naval intelligence officer. Klobuchar is a centrist. O’Rourke doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a liberal.
Q. Which candidates have taken the most money from defense sector employees and political action committees during their time in Washington?
The surprise here is Sanders, the candidate who is most explicit about cutting the defense budget. The socialist stalwart has taken in more than $375,000 from defense contractors in his three decades in Congress.
Q. Which candidates had the highest ratio of defense sector contributions to total contributions?
The surprise here is Gabbard. She is the most anti-interventionist candidate in the race, and generally disliked by the Washington foreign policy establishment. But nearly two percent of the money Gabbard has raised since she came to Washington came from defense contractors.
Note: Sanders ratio of his defense contributions to his fund-raising total is very small (less that .2 percent) because he raised so much other money over the course of his career.)