Elizabeth Warren proposes crackdown on defense lobbying in new plan

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 presidential hopeful and fierce opponent of lobbyist overreach, unveiled a plan on Thursday targeting corporate influence at the Pentagon.

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The Massachusetts Democrat — a member of the Senate Arms Services Committee — laid out a four-prong proposal (the Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act) to crack down on what’s often described as the military-industrial complex: the relationship between Congress, defense lobbyists and the Pentagon.

Essentially, Warren would ban giant defense contractors, like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, from hiring senior Department of Defense officials and general and flag officers for four years after they leave the Pentagon. Contractors would also be required to identify which former government officials work for them — and what they’re working on.

“It is time to identify which programs actually benefit American security in the 21st century, and which programs merely line the pockets of defense contractors — then pull out a sharp knife and make some cuts,” she wrote in a Medium post. “And while the defense industry will inevitably have a seat at the table, they shouldn’t get to own the table itself.”

The plan would also ban DOD officials from owning or trading any stock of giant defense contractors, as well as require defense contractors to disclose the nature of their lobbying activities, like who they’re meeting with and what they’re lobbying about. In 2017 alone, Warren said, Lockheed received more than $35 billion from defense contracts.

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Finally, Warren proposed to limit foreign government hiring of American national security officials (for instance, a former National Security Council staffer currently lobbies for Huawei, the Chinese telecom company that’s been accused of espionage).

In total, sales of arms and military services by U.S. companies totaled more than $226 billion in 2017, accounting for about 57 percent of the top 100 arms sales that year, as previously reported by FOX Business. Lockheed indisputably remained the world’s largest weapons manufacturer, selling more than $44.9 billion.

Warren, in justifying the plan, also pointed to a study that found the top 20 defense contractors hired 646 former senior government officials, legislators and top staffers as lobbyists, board members, or senior executives. Of those former officials, 90 became registered lobbyists. She called it “corruption, plain and simple.”

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“It’s wrong. It’s wasteful. It’s unsustainable,” she wrote. “And it’s bad for our national security. If more money for the Pentagon could solve our security challenges, we would have solved them by now.”

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