- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2008


Defense contractors who received millions of dollars in government earmarks arranged by Rep. Duncan Hunter are now helping to fill the campaign coffers of his son, who is seeking the San Diego-area congressional seat being vacated by his father after 28 years, records show.

Officials at several companies that benefited from the pet project spending requests that the veteran Republican lawmaker inserted into often-unrelated legislation have contributed more than $30,000 to the front-running campaign of his son, Duncan D. Hunter, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.

As chairman of the Armed Services Committee until Democrats took control of the House in 2006, Mr. Hunter - who announced his retirement in May - has unabashedly attached earmarks to spending bills during his 14 terms in Congress. He listed the earmarks on his House Web page as “funding initiatives.”

In contrast to promises by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona to hold members of Congress accountable for earmarks and to “veto every pork-barrel earmark spending bill that comes across my desk,” Mr. Hunter and his son embrace the practice - particularly for making military budgets.

The Hunters argue that the Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to “raise and support armies” and, as a result, members of the House and Senate are not bound solely by requests of the president or the Pentagon.

The younger Mr. Hunter, 31, a Marine Corps Reserve captain with two tours of duty in Iraq, said he does not think Mr. McCain, if elected, would veto a bill because it provided additional support for the military. He also noted that the donations he received from defense contractors represented only a small part of his $841,000 campaign war chest.

“We’ve had over 4,000 contributors,” he said. “We get money from all over, mostly from individuals throughout the country who believe in what I stand for.”

His Democratic challenger, Mike Lumpkin, a retired Navy SEAL commander who also served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the earmarking process has been institutionalized. Although earmarking is needed in some cases, he said, it should be the “exception, not the rule.”

Mr. Lumpkin acknowledged that the amount of money that Mr. Hunter’s campaign collected from defense contractors with earmarks was small, but he criticized Mr. Hunter for accepting the contributions.

“Is it illegal? That’s beyond my area of expertise,” he said. “But does it smell? Absolutely. Does it matter what percentage, or is it the principle? We should have legislators who are above reproach in their actions.”

Through June, Mr. Lumpkin raised $291,658 in a district where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats 44 percent to 31 percent, according to a report released last month by California’s secretary of state office. He received one $500 donation from a person identifying himself as an employee with one of the companies for whom the elder Mr. Hunter secured an earmark.

Through June, the records show, Mr. Hunter received $17,750 from people identifying themselves as employees or executives of defense contractors who were beneficiaries of earmarks over the past two years. Among them:

c A $19 million award to L-3 Communications Corp. in San Diego, a major supplier of homeland defense products and services. The earmarked money was for the development and testing of a missile system. L-3 Communications is the sixth-largest defense company in the United States.

c A $1.5 million award to San Diego-based Trex Enterprises Corp., a high-tech defense contractor specializing in microwave sensing, high-resolution imaging, digital signal processing, applied optics and materials. The earmarked money was to develop a device to help helicopter pilots navigate with limited visibility.

c Millions of dollars in earmarks for Dupont Aerospace in the San Diego area for the development of the DP-2 vertical takeoff and landing aircraft to transport special operations forces. More than $60 million has been appropriated for the aircraft, which has been rejected by the Navy, Army and Air Force.

FEC records show that executives at L-3 Communications contributed $2,750 to the younger Mr. Hunter’s campaign, while corporate officials at Trex Enterprises donated $7,100. Officials at Dupont Aerospace contributed $5,100 to the Hunter campaign, according to the records.

Mr. Hunter’s campaign also received $5,000 from political action committees controlled by executives of companies that benefited from the earmarks that his father secured and more than $9,500 from lobbying firms that represented contractors given earmarks, according to FEC records.

Among them, lobbyists for L-3 Communications and Trex Enterprises, identified as Northpoint Strategies and American Defense International, contributed $3,500 to the Republican candidate, the records show.

Other contributions from employees or executives of defense contractors benefiting from the Hunter earmarks include $350 from an official at Information Systems Laboratories, which received a $500,000 earmark; $250 from an official at defense and space technology consortium Defcomm, which received $8 million in earmarks; $500 from an official at NovaSol, which received a $1 million earmark; and $1,700 from officials at BAE Systems, which partially owns missile manufacturer MBDA that was among several companies that shared a $15 million earmark.

The elder Mr. Hunter said each of the earmarked projects stands up to scrutiny and rejected the notion that accepting campaign funds from defense contractors made him beholden to them.

“If you look at the actions I’ve taken, I basically try to do what’s right for the country and let the chips fall where they may,” he said, citing examples he said were unpopular with defense contractors - including a 1997 decision to cut the Navy’s $2.2 billion request for 20 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to four aircraft and, instead, buy 20 earlier-model F/A-18C/D aircraft for about $1.5 billion.

The younger Mr. Hunter said that lawmakers’ practice of inserting earmarks into funding bills may need to be re-examined but that military applications can benefit. He said “transparency” and “accountability” are necessary but that Congress is “responsible for appropriating money to the military.”

“I think we’ve proven we’re above reproach on this stuff,” he said.

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