Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Defense Community & Mike Turner

Since one of the other Dayton bloggers (Esrati) is running for Congress for the OH 3 I thought I’d do a little digging using the internet to see what’s out there on his opponent, Mike Turner. Sort of noblesse oblige to a fellow urban affairs blogger

I posted a bit already on how OH 3 is a write-off for the Democrats, so running against the incumbent is pretty much (IMHO) quixotic.

I also noted how these safe seats have a tendency to become rotten boroughs, controlled by big contributors and local interest groups that contribute a lot of money.

So lets see how this money works with a local special interest…defense spending.

First a look at career contributions from the defense
contractor community to Mike Turner
(the source for all the contribution numbers are queries run off the FEC website)

One can see the split between Political Action Committee (PAC) and individual contributions…

...and how the contributions trend over the political cycle. Interesting to see the individual contributors being that large.

Then a list of PACs sorted by most first (this is an eye chart, so click on the image to enlarge)

And a similar list, but this one was put together by grouping individual contributors using by defense contractor “contributor community”…people who work for or are associated with those who work for a defense contractor.

Using the largest contributor on the second list, MTC, as an example.

The FEC database includes people and also their employer and link to a disclosure form pdf that has their address. This permits one to associate contributors who list “homemaker” as their job with their husbands, as they share the same address and surname. The same would apply to relatives sharing the same address.

And in some cases, as this one, one contributor can contribute from more than one address.

By grouping contributions from individuals with some connection to the defense contractor one can develop a “contributor community”, and aggregate their contributions as associated with the contractor.

And then looking at how the contributions lay out over the congressional career of Mike Turner. Note there was quite a bit of money flowing to Turner in 2002 as he had a tough primary battle. In fact some money was returned.
Note that finance law permits multiple contributions up to the limit per election. If a candidate has a primary and general election individuals can contribute up to the limit for both elections. Double your money. So it's in the interest of an entrenched incumbent to have some token primary opposition so he or she can raise funds during that election, and roll them over to be used in the general.

Though the MTC donor community contributed a lot, I can’t find any connection between any specific Turner earmark that benefits this specific contractor. If there is something it's deep in the weeds.

That’s not the case with the second highest defense contractor contributor community, “Greentree”.

Here is the contributor community:

….and their funding trend. Note the big spike in 2007.

I found that odd compared to the more or less consistent contributions from PACs and the MTC people.

Was there something special in FY07 that caused this contribution spike?

Surfing around I found the Favor Factory. This is an online database set up by the Seattle Times to track defense earmarks and connect them with contractors and Congresscritters who received donations.

Here’s is a screen shot of the Mike Turner page at this database. Note that he earmarked a program for FY07 that this contractor will be working on. Same year as the big contribution jump.

Was there a connection? I don’t know. It also seems like a lot of contribution vis a vis a small earmark. Just odd to see that.

Taking a look at some bigger picture things. Here is a cut and paste from the Congressional Record of an amendment to a bill to penalize contractors who overcharged in Iraq

Yes, Turner voted no on this amendment. What’s ironic is that one of the larger individual “contributor communities”(in this case a group of managers) for Turner was Bearing Point, one of the contractors alleged to be involved in overcharges.

The company said it's in the process of responding to separate subpoenas issued by a federal grand jury in California and the U.S. Army requesting information on certain contracting activities with the federal government and Department of Defense.

BearingPoint also said it paid $15.5 million in December 2005 to settle complaints by the Justice Department that it overcharged the government for travel expenses.

Of course, Bearing Point is a big company, and operations here probably have nothing to do with the overcharge situation, but maybe this vote demonstrates a pattern of Turner siding with contractors.

The next defense contractor-related vote by Turner is really strange.

The “Accountability in Contracting Act” was a government contracting reform bill.

You can read it in detail here, but to summarize the key points are

1. Limit Length of Noncompetitive Contracts
2. Minimizing No-Bid Contracts
3. Minimizing Cost-Plus Contracts
4. Public Disclosure of Justification for No-Bid Contracts
5. Disclosing Contractor Overcharges
6. Funding Contractor Oversight
7. Closing the “Revolving Door”

So what happened?

Yeah, yer humble host scratches his head too when seeing this Turner vote, especially since Hobson voted for it, and the contractor association itself supported it, and the GOP supported it when it came for a vote.

Anywho, this might seem like big money, but the really big individual contributor/special interest money going to Turner are the real estate/developer/builder community and the partisan/ideological“leadership PACS”.

I will take a very brief look at the developer/builder money later.


Anonymous said...

Jeffrey, You are truly amazing. Thank you for taking the time to dig into this. When you start looking at other large contributors- and look at the amounts, you will see that Turner gets a lot of $2,300 checks- and very few $50, and $100 donations.
Exact opposite of me.
MTC has gotten a lot of contracts since Turner was elected. I can't say he's been involved, but, there is no question MTC has done quite well since helping their boy into Congress.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey & David,

Is there any way to find out who Greentree uses for their advertising firm? I know they spend a lot of money on TV & Radio, mostly on WHIO. hmmm, could it be "Turner Effect"? Inquiring minds want to know! ;)