Late last month, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) joined with his pals Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) for a “Preserving America’s Strength” series of town-hall style meetings aimed at highlighting the potential impact of defense cuts. But while McCain’s office said that the “official trip” was being paid for entirely with campaign funds, a ThinkProgress analysis of McCain’s donors reveals that much of that money comes from defense industry political action committees.
The Budget Control Act of 2011’s budget sequestration provisions — which McCain voted for — would cut about $917 billion in federal spending over a decade, including about $487 in defense expenditures.
Though even with these cuts, 2013 defense spending would still exceed 2006 levels, the Republican Senators ironically made the tour to sound the alarm that cuts to the federal budget mean fewer private sector jobs. In their announcement statement, they agreed:
We look forward to visiting communities in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire to sound the alarm about the profound negative consequences of these cuts to our national security and economy. These communities — which provide our troops the equipment and support they need to defend our country — will bear the brunt of the defense sequestration cuts. Their voices must be heard in Washington.”
The cuts would also, of course, mean less money for the military-industrial complex.
At the recommendation of the Senate Ethics Committee, a McCain spokesman announced the trip would not be paid for with public funds, explaining that it was “an official trip being paid for with campaign funds — the recommended way to pay for travel such as this outside of a member’s home state.” Since the start of 2010, McCain’s campaign committee and leadership PAC have received more than $125,000 in combined contributions from defense contractors’ corporate PACs. Over his career, according to the Center for Responsible Politics data, he had taken more than $1.2 million in defense industry donations.
The New Hampshire stop on the tour was at BAE Systems’ Worrell/Weeks Aircrew Protection Center in North Merrimack. Only BAE Systems employees were permitted to attend. BAE Systems Inc.’s corporate PAC gave McCain $2,500 in 2010. the PAC also gave $5,000 to Ayotte in the same year and $10,000 to Graham in 2008, when he was last up for re-election.