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Lawmakers invest in defense contractors

Forty-seven members of Congress have invested between $4-million and $8-million in companies that manufacture weapons and equipment for the war effort. As the war has gone on, the value of the investments has gone up, according to a nonpartisan government watchdog.

There were more Republicans on the list than Democrats — 28 to 19 — but the Democrats' stake in those companies was substantially greater — at least $3.7-million to the Republicans' $577,500, according to the report by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The report, which relies on financial disclosure forms for 2006, comes just days before Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military officer in Iraq, is scheduled to testify before two major Senate committees that control defense policy and budgeting.

Members of these committees, including Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, held assets of between $3-million and $5.1-million in companies such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Honeywell and Raytheon.

Spokesman David Wade said Kerry, who staunchly opposes the war in Iraq, is one of many beneficiaries of family trusts that he doesn't control. Wade also noted that Kerry does not sit on the Appropriations Committee, which has direct control of the defense budget.

"He has a 24-year Senate record of working and voting in the best interests of our men and women in the military, not of any defense contractors," Wade said.

No one in the Florida delegation was among the top 10 most heavily invested in defense-only companies.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, had at least $51,000 invested in these companies in 2006.

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had at least $30,000, including between $1,001 and $15,000 invested in defense company Raytheon.

According to Berman's office, that holding is in a trust the congressman inherited from his parents.

"It's a couple thousand dollars," Berman's spokeswoman said. "We're not talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's a teeny investment, and he inherited it. He didn't make it."

It is unclear how many members still hold these investments and exactly how much money has been made. Disclosure reports for 2007 aren't due until May. Also, members are required to report only a general range of their holdings.

According to the report, presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain did not report any defense-related holdings on their filings; Hillary Rodham Clinton did note holdings in such companies as Honeywell, Boeing and Raytheon, but sold the stock in May 2007.

All three candidates are members of the Senate.

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., held at least $15,000 in Lockheed Martin stock in 2006. A spokesman for Blunt said it's "insulting" to make a connection between personal investments and a lawmaker's job.

"Congressman Blunt does not consider his personal finances when voting for legislation, especially on issues as weighty as sending our troops into harm's way," Blunt spokesman Nick Simpson said.

Other lawmakers have decided to sell their shares in defense companies. In 2006, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had $1,000 in Honeywell and $1,000 in United Technologies. But he has gotten rid of those holdings, which represented a tiny percentage of his net worth, according to his office.

Lawmakers invest in defense contractors 04/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 5:18pm]
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