Are House Leadship Conflicts Fueling Iraq Occupation?

ARE HOUSE LEADERSHIP CONFLICTS OF INTEREST STALLING THE DRIVE TO GET THE U.S. OUT OF IRAQ

By Nick Mottern
www.consumersforpeace.org

At least seven bills have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would halt the escalation of the Iraq War and/or forbid further money from being used for anything except bringing U.S. forces completely out of Iraq. H.R. 508, introduced by Cong. Lynn Woolsey D-CA would require all U.S. military and private security personnel to be out of Iraq within six months of the legislation’s passage.

These bills, for all practical purposes, are being sidelined by the leaders of the Democratically-controlled House: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi D-CA; Majority Leader Steny Hoyer D-MD; and Cong. John Murtha D-PA, a legislatively powerful war critic because of his chairmanship of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Instead, attention of the House has been focused by the leadership this week on a non-binding resolution expressing disapproval of sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq.

A consideration for the leadership in taking this tack is reported resistance among conservative Democrats to cutting off money for the war. However, an examination of the financial underpinnings of the careers of Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer and Mr. Murtha suggests that they face serious conflicts of interest with respect to war funding.

This concern is reinforced when one compares the financial bases of the leadership with those of two of the foremost advocates for cutting off war funding, Ms. Woolsey and Cong. Barbara Lee D-CA.

The involvement of the House leadership in the war industry may partially explain of why President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are so certain that Congress will not block their Iraq plans.

SPEAKER PELOSI, according to OpenSecrets.org, is the 9th wealthiest member of the House, with assets in 2005, the most recent reporting year, in the range of $14.7 to $55 million (the wide range results from the imprecision allowed by federal reporting requirements). She has a large portion of her money in real estate, but as of 2005 she had stock in total value in the range of $767,000 and $1.8 million in nine firms that do substantial amounts of military business, such as AT&T, Comcast, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson and Polycom.

In her 2006 race for reelection, OpenSecrets reports that Lockheed Martin, the top war contractor, with over $19 billion in military sales, contributed $20,000 to her campaign in direct and PAC contributions. PAC contributions to Ms. Pelosi from firms doing military business totalled $99,000, representing a little less than 10 percent of her overall PAC money of $1.09 million. Major military contractors who supported Cong. Pelosi also include: Boeing, with the second highest total of military contracts: United Technologies, 7th highest; and BAE Systems, 12th.

Ms. Pelosi also received $23,500 in PAC money from what Open Secrets described as the pro-Israel lobby, a group that has been supportive of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Within this group, she received $1,500 from the Hudson River Caucus, which also contributed to the reelection campaign of Sen. Joseph Lieberman I-CT, who has been an advocate for escalation of the Iraq War.

(Ms. Pelosi also received a $1,000 contribution from the Iranian-American Political Action Committee, the website of which says it stays completely out of U.S.-Iran relations and focuses exclusively on needs of the Iranian community in the U.S.)

A February 10 Associated Press article quoted “one Democrat” in Congress who said that Speaker Pelosi said in a private caucus: “Our goal is to end the war,” and that she has been backing the non-binding criticism of the escalation. However, her most recent statement on the war appearing this week on her Congressional website, issued on January 31 upon her return from a visit to Iraq and Afganistan, says nothing about getting U.S. troops out of Iraq:

“The escalation instituted by the President has been tried before and failed. Although we heard varying judgements about prospects for success this time, everyone we spoke to agreed that this was the one last chance, and it might not work.

“A better course than the escalation would be to quickly transition U.S. troops from a combat mission to a training mission; a mission committed to force protection, border security, fighting terrorism, and training Iraqis.”

Ms. Pelosi has said that the House will not cut off of money for the war. Indeed, there are reports that it has taken a huge push from anti-war Congresspeople and the public to get the leadership to the point of advancing the non-binding resolution.

(The non-binding resolution that Ms. Pelosi is pushing expresses support for U.S. troops, apparently to counter the argument that cutting war money puts troops at risk.
The illogic of the “support the troops” rife is demonstrated by H.R. 455, introduced by Cong. Jerry Nadler, D-NY, which provides for troops safety, saying simply that Defense Department money can be used only for:

1. “the continued protection of members of the Armed Forces who are in Iraq pending their withdrawal; and

2. “the safe and orderly withdrawal of the United States Armed Forces from Iraq” with withdrawal beginning 30 days after the bill is enacted and completed no later than December 31, 2007.

Clearly, under this legislation, there would be plenty of money to support U.S. troops as they depart. Cong. Woolsey’s H.R. 508 has similar language and will be discussed later.)

MAJORITY LEADER HOYER, OpenSecrets reports, ranks 226th in the House in terms of wealth, with assets ranging from $332,007 to $731,000 and 100 percent of his holdings in real estate. Federal documents also show assets in mutual and money market funds.

In his 2006 race for reelection, Mr. Hoyer’s top contributors included military contractors: Northrup Grumman, third largest recipient of military contracts; General Dynamics, 4th largest; Raytheon, 5th largest; Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems, as well as a number of other firms with significant military contracts. Together his military-related direct contributions totalled $140,600, based on the OpenSecrets list of top contributors. This represents about 22 percent of his top contributions listed by Open Secrets.

PAC contributions to Mr. Hoyer’s 2006 campaign from firms doing business with the military totalled $307,600, representing about 18 percent of his $1.68 million in PAC money. Major military contractor contributors included: Lockheed; General Dynamics; Raytheon; Level 3 Communications, 8th among top military contractors; Computer Sciences Corp, 9th; and Science Applications International, 11th.

Major health care providers to the military contributing PAC money to Mr. Hoyer include: Baxter Healthcare; Cardinal Health and GlaxoSmithKline.

He also received $48,000 from the pro-Israel lobby. $10,000 of this came from the Desert Caucus, which also contributed $5,000 to the campaign of Senator Lieberman.

Inspite of criticizing the escalation, Mr. Hoyer said on Meet the Press on February 11 that the House has no intention of cutting of money for the war. His remarks came in response to a question by the show’s host, Tim Russert, who prefaced the question by reading a report saying that Mr. Murtha is planning to block money for additional troops in Iraq unless certain readiness standards are met and that Mr. Murtha has said he will attach this measure on March 15 to the Bush funding request. Mr. Russert also quoted Mr. Murtha saying he would try to block funding for extending tours of duty in Iraq beyond one year.

Mr. Russert: “So John Murtha, clearly, wants to cut off funding for this war…

Mr. Hoyer: “No, no…

Mr. Russert: “…in some form or fashion.”

Mr. Hoyer: “If you read that carefully what he said, ‘unless certain conditions are met’. I think every American will agree with the conditions. Jack Murtha talked about this the other day. First of all, he doesn’t want to send troops that aren’t trained. He doesn’t want to send troops that aren’t fully equipped.”

CONG. MURTHA ranks 335th in terms of personal wealth in the House, with assets listed by OpenSecrets in the range of $71,010 to $242,000. His primary holdings are in banking. He does not appear to have direct interest in any firms doing business with the military.

Thirteen of Mr. Murtha’s top 20 contributors are firms doing business with the Pentagon, including Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin. Of the total $485,649 accredited to the top 20 contributors, $ 289,699, or about 60 percent, came from firms doing military business.

Mr. Murtha received $736,925 in PAC contributions for his 2006 race, with $329,800 coming from firms doing Pentagon business, or about 45 percent. PAC contributors included Lockheed Martin, United Technologies, General Dynamics, BAE Systems and DynCorp, which provides private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and L-3 Communications. Oshkosh Truck Corp., maker of armored vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan, was among PAC Mr. Murtha’s PAC supporters.

Mr. Murtha has introduced H.J.Res. 18, which would end the authority of Mr. Bush to deploy troops to Iraq and have them “redeployed at the earliest practicable date. And it says: “A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines shall be deployed in the region”. And finally, “The United States shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.” The bill clearly calls for a continuation of U.S. forces in or near Iraq on call for further combat.

A report in The Hill newspaper of October 11, 2006 says that military contractors have two minds about the continuation of the Iraq War. Some are said to want the war to end so that more money will go into new military technology. At the same time others benefit from building armored vehicles, bullets and personnel protection items that are consumed in continuing warfare. Mr. Murtha’s partial withdrawal plan might satisfy both interests.

CONG. WOOLSEY, ranks 332 in wealth among members of the House, with assets in the range of $73,017 to $395,000, concentrated in computer, internet and finance businesses. Her investments in Apple Computer, Cisco Systems, Agilent and AT&T, firms with military contracts, are in the range of $1,000 to $15,000 for each. An investment in Autodesk, which also has military contracts, is in the range of $15,000 to $50,000.

Ms. Woolsey’s 20 top contributors include no firms with military contracts and is comprised largely of unions. Her PAC contributors include one firm with military contracts: CH2M HILL, $2,000; this represents about 0.4 percent of her 2005-2006 $474,314 PAC total.

Ms. Woolsey is a co-founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus, and she chaired a hearing January 12 at which she invited former Senator George McGovern and Middle East specialist William Polk, authors of “Out of Iraq” (Simon&Schuster), to testify about the withdrawal plan presented in the their book. They were joined by former-Lt. General William Odom, another proponent for withdrawal. (See Archives)

On January 17, Ms. Woolsey introduced H.R. 508, the most comprehensive piece of withdrawal legislation, which picks up on recommendations of former-Senator McGovern and Mr. Polk. The bill, which provides for similar protection of troops as Cong. Nadler’s H.R. 455, is distinct from the Murtha Iraq bill, H.J.Res. 18, not only in setting a six-month deadline for withdrawal but in making it clear that U.S. forces withrdawn from Iraq will be “returned to the United States or redeployed outside the Middle East.” The bill also would ensure that the tens of thousands of “security forces under contract or subcontract with the United States Government and working in Iraq shall be withdrawn from Iraq” no later than six month’s from enactment of the bill.

CONG. LEE, another co-founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus, ranks 293 in personal wealth in the House, with a net worth in the range of $153,014 to $522,000. Her investments are primarily money market and investment funds. According to her financial disclosure filing in 2006, she held stock in Xerox Corp., which has military contracts, valued in the range of $15,000 to $50,000.

Ms. Lee’s top contributors for her 2006 campaign included no military contractors, according to OpenSecrets. Her 2005-2006 PAC contributions totalled $216,916. Three firms with military contracts made the following PAC contributions to Ms. Lee:
Comcast, $1,000; Parsons Corp., $1,000; and GlaxoSmithKline, $1,000. These represent about 1.4 percent of her PAC total.

Ms. Lee, listed as first co-sponsor of H.R. 508 and a co-sponsor of other out-of-Iraq bills, is renown among anti-war workers as the only member of either house of Congress to vote against the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She has been a continuing critic of the Iraq War. On January 29 she introduced H.Con.Res. 46 which states that it is the policy of the United States not to establish permanent bases in Iraq or to control Iraq’s oil. Both these points are addressed also in Ms. Woolsey’s H.R. 508.

A draft of this article was sent for comment to the press officers of all Congresspeople under discussion above; none have responded at the time of posting. Any responses will be posted as they are received.

( Note: In coming weeks, ConsumersforPeace will report on military connections of others in the Congress in relation to the Iraq War. Information for this article on military contractors for was obtained from www.fedspending.org.)