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15 lawmakers profiting from defense industry investments while running US defense policy: Report

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (Dreamstime/TNS)
December 14, 2021

Fifteen lawmakers serving on House and Senate committees that shape U.S. military policy are profiting from investments in prominent defense contractors benefited by the very policies they influence, according to federal financial records analyzed by Business Insider this week.  

Insider examined nearly 9,000 financial reports for every sitting member of Congress, as well as their top staffers, as part of a broader effort dubbed the Conflicted Congress project, which aims to identify possible conflicts of interest among lawmakers in Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans serving on the Armed Services committees have combined defense industry investments nearing $1 million as of 2020, and they’re continuing to invest and cash in.

Among the contractors that appeared in the committee members’ financial disclosures were Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co., Raytheon Technologies Corp., Honeywell, and General Electric. Each company is known for spending millions to lobby the federal government in an effort to win lucrative government contracts and shape public policy.

One of the congressmen on Insider’s list is 16-term Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN). Cooper, who leads the House panel’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee and owned $65,000 worth of General Electric (GE) stock by the end of last year.

According to GE’s website, the company is a “leading supplier of integrated systems and technologies for combat aircraft, military transport, helicopters, land vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)” that works to enable “armed forces around the world to improve reliability and enhance operational performance.”

“Using a legacy as a world-class leader in the industry, GE is making the future of military air and land procedures safer, stronger and more dynamic than ever before,” the website continued.

Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) was documented buying and selling nearly $1.4 million in Boeing stock in 2021, and reported owning $50,000 in General Electric stock.

Insider further reported that the wife of Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) – who continues to serve on the House Armed Services Committee – invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in several defense contractor stocks last year, including Boeing, General Dynamics, General Electric, Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.

“My wife has assets prior to marriage which are legally not mine, and it’s not my place to tell her what to do with her separate assets,” Ro Khanna told Insider.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) denies knowing about $15,000 worth of Lockheed Martin stock and another $15,000 in Honeywell that appeared in his financial records.

A spokesman for Wittman said in an email that the congressman “believes members of Congress should not improperly benefit from their role” and that Wittman “remains committed to accountability and transparency in government.”

Officials at the nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wrote that “Americans shouldn’t have to be concerned about members of Congress being more focused on their stock portfolio than on the country’s problems and their constituents’ best interests.”

“At worst, it’s a sign of abject corruption,” a CREW aide said. “And at best, it’s a distraction — even for well-meaning members — from the work that they’re actually supposed to be doing: passing laws and conducting oversight.”