chuck hagel

Is Lindsey Graham Holding Up Obama Nominees To Please Defense Industry Donors?

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) just announced that he will hold up President Obama’s nominees to head the Pentagon and CIA until he gets more information about the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Graham’s justification is puzzling because Obama’s nominees have nothing to do with this issue. But what if the Senator is holding up the nominees — specifically, Chuck Hagel — for another reason?

As we’ve noted before, Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel is a critic of the Pentagon’s spending, calling it “bloated” and demanding that it must be “pared down.” Graham has been a critic of Pentagon cuts, categorically opposing them in a speech this past December.

The Senator is widely considered to be vulnerable to a primary challenge from the right, so he has needed to amass a sizable campaign warchest. To do this, he’s been courting defense industry donors. In this cycle, Boeing is his seventh-largest donor, and Lockheed Martin is his eleventh (together they’ve given $45,100).

Additionally, his second-largest donor is Nelson, Mullins et al, a lobbying firm, giving him $74,084 between its political action committee and employees. The firm has a number of corporate clients, but one of its major ones in 2012 was defense contractor General Dynamics, which paid it $120,000.

Its certainly possible that Graham has ideological objections to Hagel or any of the other Obama nominees he has opposed. But his influx of defense contractor cash creates another possibility.

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Chuck Hagel In 2011: Pentagon Budget Is ‘Bloated,’ It Must Be ‘Pared Down’

This morning, President Obama announced that he will be picking former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Secretary of Defense.

There are many different issues that Hagel will face during his confirmation hearings, and progressives can be expected to question him on his past conservative opposition to gay rights.

Here’s one area where he’s more progressive. In a 2011 interview with the Financial Times, he said that the budget is “in many ways bloated” and said that it must be “pared down.”

“War costs money and Hagel understands that. Many believe Hagel wants to dramatically reduce the Department of Defense budget,” writes defense analyst and veteran Kerry Patton. “How many critics realize how much fraud, waste, and abuse rests within the DOD? Any level-headed individual can go into any government office and find wasteful spending. There is no better time than now to take a close look at wasteful spending and start making cuts.”

This would put Hagel to the left of the current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who resisted major defense cuts.

 

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