Two House Republicans set to chair committees responsible for crafting and passing the annual defense bill were the biggest recipients of campaign money from individuals and PACs affiliated with the defense sector, an OpenSecrets analysis found.
Reps. Mike Rogers (R–Ala.) and Ken Calvert (R–Calif.) are slated to rise from the ranking members of the House Armed Services Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, respectively, to chair positions when Republicans regain control of the House in January. Both have pushed to give even more money to the Pentagon and, by extension, defense companies, which have received nearly half of the annual defense spending bill since 2001, according to the Brown University Costs of War Project.
The House, still controlled by Democrats, passed a $857.9 billion annual defense spending bill on Thursday afternoon. That’s the biggest top line number in the history of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committee wrote in a joint statement “continues the Armed Services Committees’ 62-year tradition of working together to support our troops and strengthen America’s national security.”
Rogers and Calvert are the top two recipients of 2022 election cycle campaign contributions from individuals and PACs affiliated with the defense sector, according to OpenSecrets data. The defense sector totals include Boeing, which OpenSecrets codes as “transportation” but is one of the Department of Defense’s top five contractors, raking in tens of billions of dollars each year.
Rogers’ campaign received more than $440,000 from the defense sector through Oct. 19, according to OpenSecrets data, while Calvert’s campaign raked in $390,000 from the sector during the 2022 election cycle. Defense sector contributions account for 22% of the $2 million Roger’s campaign raised through the same period and 11% of the $3.3 million Calvert’s campaign raised.
House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith (D–Calif.) and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Betty McCollum (D–Minn.) received $276,000 and $219,000, respectively, from individuals and PACs affiliated with the defense sector during the same period. Defense sector contributions also accounted for 22% of the $1.2 million Smith’s reelection campaign raised as of Oct.19 and 11% of the $2 million McCollum’s reelection campaign raised.
The defense sector, which spent over $101 million on federal lobbying during the first nine months of 2022, contributed a collective $17.5 million to members of Congress during the 2022 midterm election cycle, OpenSecrets previously reported. Over $9.1 million went to Republican members of Congress through Oct. 19, and more than $8.3 million went to Democrats. The sector has historically steered the most money to members of the armed services and appropriations committees.
Rogers has received $2 million from the defense sector since the start of the 2002 election cycle, when he was first elected to the U.S. House, according to OpenSecrets data. Smith has received $1.8 million since the start of the 1996 cycle. Calvert has received more than $1.6 million since the start of the 1992 cycle, three times the $518,000 McCollum has received from the defense sector since the start of the 2000 cycle.
Since 2012, the defense sector has also contributed more money to Rogers’ campaign than any other sector. The defense sector was also the top contributor to Calvert’s campaign during the 2020 election cycle, following his election to ranking member of the defense subcommittee of the appropriations committee in 2019.
Spokespeople for Rogers and Calvert did not return requests for comment.
Rogers recently told POLITICO he plans to prioritize weapons production, nuclear modernization and deterrence of China. The incoming armed services chair said his top priority was to ensure “no cuts whatsoever to defense spending.”
In 2021, Rogers authored a successful amendment to boost the House NDAA top line by $25 billion. He also led House GOP efforts to adopt a Democratic-sponsored $37 billion amendment to President Joe Biden’s record $813 billion defense budget proposal earlier this year.
“A key investment will be boosting the production of weapons and platforms – especially long-range fires and shipbuilding,” Rogers said in a written statement. “We also need to prioritize the development of new technologies to ensure our warfighters have the most advanced tools at their disposal.”
Rogers added that nuclear competition with Russia and China would “drive sustained investment in nuclear delivery platforms and an aging [National Nuclear Security Administration] complex.” He previously oversaw U.S. nuclear weapons programs when he was chair of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee. Rogers was also the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee before he was elected ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.
But a tight GOP majority that includes conservative members that favor steep spending cuts might be a roadblock to Rogers’ push to pour more money into the military. Rogers pushed funding for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program — the costliest weapon system in history — in his opening remarks during a hearing on the Air Force’s 2023 budget request. But Smith has called the F-35 program a “rathole” that the Pentagon should scrap.
The incoming House armed services chair recently accused Biden of pushing “far-left initiatives that have nothing to do with national security” including vaccine mandates, diversity initiatives and funding for troops to obtain abortions. The NDAA passed on Thursday bars the military from discharging troops who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Repealing the vaccine mandate was a top priority for House Speaker nominee Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.) and other top Republicans in both the House and Senate, Roll Call reported. McCarthy said he wanted to wait to vote on the NDAA until the new Congress convenes in January, in part in opposition to “wokeism” in the legislation.
Smith sharply criticized McCarthy’s delay.
“If you kick it off four, five, six months, you are really damaging the United States military. So I hope Kevin McCarthy understands that,” Smith said. He also told The Hill that the NDAA drama was “a bit overblown.”
At the POLITICO Defense Summit in November, Smith said he has “complete confidence” that Rogers could get the job done when asked if a shift to Republican House leadership might impact the NDAA process moving forward.
House Armed Services Committee member Michael Waltz (R–Fla.) told POLITICO that Rogers hopes to continue his “good relationship” with Smith, a large part of the reason the NDAA has come out of the committee with near unanimous backing under his tenure.
The Senate is expected to vote on the NDAA next week.
12/9/22: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Rep. Ken Calvert (R—Calif.) represents Louisiana.