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Tanker Fight Fueled by Millions in Campaign Cash

The news today that the Government Accountability Office has upheld Boeing's protest of an Air Force tanker contract award given to Northrop Grumman and EADS means that the $40 billion deal remains in doubt. Which is very good news for the campaign coffers of members of Congress.

The Boeing vs. Northrop Grumman fight, which has played out publicly in dueling lobbying campaigns, hasn't just pitted two aerospace behemoths against each other. It's also been a matchup of two of the most generous political donors on Capitol Hill.

The Boeing Political Action Committee has made just over $1 million worth of political contributions this cycle, handing out cash to dozens of candidates and party committees on both sides of the aisle. The Air Force's decision on the tanker contract was announced in late February, and the Boeing PAC made $145,000 in contributions in March and April to a variety of party leaders, members of the Armed Services panels and lawmakers whose districts would benefit from a Boeing-built tanker.

Not to be outdone, the Employees of Northrop Grumman PAC has been similarly active. The committee has doled out $1.1 million in contributions this cycle and $114,000 in March and April alone to a similarly diverse set of recipients. On a smaller scale, the catchily named EADS North America Americans for Competition in Aerospace PAC has made $135,000 in donations this cycle and $26,000 worth in March and April (March was its biggest giving month so far). We'll know by the end of this week what all three PACs contributed in May.

CQ Moneyline (sub req'd) ranks Northrop as the 13th biggest corporate PAC contributor to individual candidates this cycle. Boeing PAC is 19th.

Of course, campaign donations haven't been these companies' only outlet for expressing themselves on Capitol Hill. Both sides of the tanker fight have paid for pricey ads in The Washington Post and congressional trade publications. Both have added to their lobbying teams, sought to have op-eds placed all over town and pushed lawmakers whose districts would be most affected to reach out.

GAO's decision mandating that the Air Force go back to the drawing board means that the tanker battle will continue for several months, and that members of Congress will net a whole lot more cash before it's over.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 18, 2008; 2:55 PM ET
Categories:  Fundraising Circuit  
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