Sunday, March 11, 2012

Would A Congressman Take Bribes To Extend A Senseless War? Meet Buck McKeon (R-CA)


As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee-- and one of the country's chief proponents, and best paid shills, for the armaments industry and for every kind of defense contractor willing to write a political PAC check-- Buck McKeon seems determined to keep the American occupation of Afghanistan going for as long as he has a political breath left in his shriveled old body. His new Pentagon budget has provisos written by war industry lobbyists to extend the occupation into the foreseeable future. Yesterday we saw that McKeon now is not just facing the strongest Democratic challenger of his career in Lee Rogers, but also two well-known Republican primary opponents who, like many Republicans, are fed up with his outrageous corruption, warmongering and incompetence. And there's a strong bipartisan coalition building in the Senate to derail McKeon's scheme of extending the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan.

Last week 24 senators from both parties signed a letter to Obama that flew right in the face of McKeon's plans. They're asking for an accelerated troop withdrawal. It may have started as the brainchild of progressive Oregon senator Jeff Merkley but it was soon embraced by one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, Max Baucus (D-MT) and then by two extreme right-wing Republicans, teabaggers Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT). On the Democratic side, accelerated withdrawal, has support from conservatives like Joe Manchin (WV) and liberals like Sheldon Whitehouse. So far this is the full list. Is your senator on it?
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-WI)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

This is a copy of the letter they sent to President Obama:
We write to express our support of a transition of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from a combat role to a training, advising and assistance role next year, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated was his intention on February 1st, 2012. Although we would prefer a more rapid reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the statement made by the Secretary is a positive step towards ending the decade long war.

It is time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. The United States intervened in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda’s safe haven, remove the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursue those who planned the September 11th attacks on the United States. Thanks to the exceptional service and sacrifice made by the American Armed Forces and our allies, those objectives have largely been met. We should continue to confront America’s enemies wherever they are through targeted counterterrorism operations and end the large scale counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.

We simply cannot afford more years of elevated troop levels in Afghanistan. We are spending roughly $10 billion in Afghanistan each month at a time when we’re making tough sacrifices at home. Your recent budget calls for $88 billion more for the war in Afghanistan in 2013. If this money is appropriated, we will have spent a total of $650 billion in Afghanistan. A majority of Americans worry that the costs of the war in Afghanistan will make it more difficult for the government to address the problems facing the United States at home. They’re right.

Our troops and their families have made unimaginable sacrifices during the past ten years of war in Afghanistan. Over 1,900 American troops have been killed and over 14,300 have been wounded. Thousands more return home with invisible wounds that will make it difficult to ever again enjoy life the way they did before the war.

There is strong bipartisan support in Congress to change course in Afghanistan. The majority of Americans want a safe and orderly drawdown of forces in Afghanistan. In May, the U.S. House of Representatives nearly passed an amendment to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act requiring a plan to accelerate the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan. A similar amendment introduced by Senators Merkley, Lee, T. Udall, and Paul was passed by the U. S. Senate on November 30th.

We look forward to reviewing the report required by Section 1221 of the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which will set benchmarks to evaluate progress toward the assumption by the Afghan government of lead responsibility for security in all areas of Afghanistan. In light of the comments made by Secretary Panetta on February 1st, we would also be interested in learning more about how quickly U.S. troops will be coming home, the number and purpose of troops that might remain in Afghanistan and for how long a period, and the costs and savings of accelerating the completion of combat operations. Nonetheless, we welcome his announcement and encourage you to take every possible step to end the large scale combat operations in Afghanistan and transition our effort to a targeted counterterrorism strategy.

Of the 10 biggest recipients of war industry bribes, only one, Maryland's Barbara Mikulski, widely thought to be in her last term, signed the letter. The 10 biggest career-long bribe takers from the armaments makers, all of whom support their pro-war agenda:

Richard Shelby (R-AL)- $1,368,716
John McCain (R-AZ)- $1,214,034
Daniel Inouye (D-HI)- $756,700
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)- $702,910
John Kerry (D-MA)- $665,239
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)- $662,077
Joe Lieberman (I-CT)- $648,984
Bill Nelson (D-FL)- $602,487
Miss McConnell (R-KY)- $517,899
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)- $504,406

As we saw today, the occupation is absolutely toxic for everyone involved-- our own young men and women and, of course for the people of Afghanistan. An American service member "walked out of a military base in a rural district of southern Afghanistan on Sunday and opened fire on three nearby houses, killing at least 16 civilians, including several children, local villagers and provincial officials said."
The shooting risks further inciting anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan and troubling a relationship that had already been brought to a new low by the burning of Korans at an American military base last month. The American Embassy in Afghanistan quickly issued a statement on Sunday urging calm.

Too bad we can't send McCain and McKeon over there to explain to those families why it's important for U.S. troops to be occupying their homeland. McCain has already stepped up as leader of the opposition to any end to the occupation of Afghanistan. He is also now openly advocating wars against Syria and Iran. And, just by way of comparison, McKeon, who has been a veritable bribe vacuum since assuming the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has taken in $1,148,150 from the war industries-- and that doesn't count the immense-- and probably illegal-- bribes being funneled into his household through his wife's absurd campaign for the California Assembly, almost entirely financed by defense contractors eager to buy leverage with ole Buck.
[D]efense lobbyists are scrambling to mitigate looming defense budget cuts and appear to be donating to Patricia McKeon because of her husband’s powerful position overseeing  the Pentagon budget.

In her first few months of fundraising, Patricia McKeon collected at least $19,200 from defense contractors or their registered lobbyists. Her husband of 49 years is already the top recipient of military industry cash in Congress, so some of the contributions to his wife appear to be an attempt to get around federal campaign contribution limits.

Lockheed Martin, a company locked in a pitched battle to stave off cuts to the lucrative F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, cut Patricia McKeon’s campaign a $3,000 check.

Rep. Buck McKeon has rigorously defended the jets, despite growing concerns that the planes will run almost $90 million over budget each.

The lobbying firm Beau Butler LLC gave to Patricia McKeon as well. Beau Butler lobbies for Proxy Aviations, a drone company. Although it’s not clear why a drone maker would rally to Patricia McKeon’s call to end plastic bag taxes, the industry is an important cause for Buck McKeon. He’s co-chairman of a caucus dedicated to promoting drones for both military and civilian purposes.

Is it fair to called the legalistic money that Members of Congress get from the industries they're charged with regulating "bribes?" Absolutely! But don't just take my word for it. No one alive knows more about bribing Members of Congress than admitted briber Jack Abramoff. And in his book on the subject, Capitol Punishment, he is absolutely clear:
[C]ontributions from parties with an interest in legislation are really nothing but bribes. Sure, it's legal for the most part. Sure, everyone in Washington does it. Sure it's the way the system works. It's one of Washington's dirty little secrets-- but it's bribery just the same...

And NOT everyone does it, even if everyone in the primarily GOP circles Abramoff traveled in does. But McKeon doing it with the armaments industry is even more serious than most, because he's jeopardizing national security and the lives of countless young men and women serving, what they think, are the best interests of the country-- but are really just the best interests of the corporations bribing him. That's not just bribery; it's treason.

Tuesday at 11 AM Blue America will have a live blogging session at Crooks and Liars with Dr. Lee Rogers, the progressive Democrat poised to end McKeon's disgraceful career. This morning Lee addressed McKeon's shilling for the armaments industry head on:
McKeon has shown that his constituency is not the people of the 25th district of California, but the war industries. When given the opportunity to help his district, by preventing an unpopular mine or by helping the father of a Army medic killed in Afghanistan, he fails. But at every instance he stands up for the war industries. Before McKeon was chair of the House Armed Services Committee, he voted in agreement with defense industries 25%. In 2011, he became chair and subsequently voted 100% in agreement with them. He was richly rewarded with an increase of contributions by 450%, now taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from defense industries. These contributions support his lifestyle. He has paid his wife over $550,000 to be his campaign treasurer in addition to paying other family members for services. It's time to elect someone whose campaign and personal wealth isn't tied to putting our troops into harms way.

Let me encourage you to help Blue America replace Buck McKeon with Lee Rogers-- for the good of the whole country. You can do it here at our ActBlue page.

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