The New York Times reports:
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, its decision was based solely on its evolving understanding of the evidence. But critics have suggested that the delay in joining the international consensus may have been the result, at least in part, of the close relationship that Boeing, a major political force in Washington and a large government contractor, has with American officials.
Boeing receives more federal money than any corporation other than Lockheed Martin, its main competitor in the defense contractor industry. Boeing took in over $23 billion in con tracts from the government in the 2017 fiscal year — near its annual average. (Just this fall, the company won a $9.2 billion contract to make a new generation of jets for the Air Force.)
Senator Elizabeth Warren publicly questioned whether the government had “put lives at risk” to protect Boeing’s bottom line. She and a bipartisan group of her colleagues requested congressional hearings to investigate.
In 1940, Congress passed a law barring individuals and firms from making federal campaign contributions while they negotiate or perform federal contracts. The intent was to prevent companies from trying to bribe politicians for lucrative deals and to prevent lawmakers from extorting money from companies with business before the government.
So how do campaign donations that appear to be connected with Boeing manage to avoid violating this law? The answer is a loophole, cemented in the law in the 1970s, that permits government contractors to set up “separate segregated funds,” or political action committees, to make political contributions using money typically pooled from the contractors’ executives and major shareholders. Such funds are legal even if the parent company pays for their operating and fund-raising costs. This exemption — whose ostensible justification is the free-speech rights of contractors’ employees — is why political action committees like Boeing’s can exist.
“It’s a huge loophole,” said Craig Holden, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen who has helped states write pay-to-play laws more restrictive than the federal-level bans.
There is also, in effect, another even larger loophole for contractors looking to influence national politicians: the inaugural committee for a president-elect. Because inaugural committees are technically not connected to the political campaign, “all bets are off,” as Mr. Fischer put it. Boeing gave a million dollars to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee — a giveaway now under scrutiny as a possible conflict of interest for the president.
Thanks to this maze of loopholes and legal niceties, federal contractors are able to effectively spend or direct the spending of money on political campaigns, despite the original intent of the law against contractor contributions. One clear result of this system is the widespread suspicion, warranted or not, of the government’s initial decision not to ground Boeing’s plane.
(click here to continue reading Opinion | The Loophole That Lets Boeing Get Cozy With Congress – The New York Times.)
Boing and Lockheed Martin and similar companies slurping up tax payer dollars is why Flint still doesn’t have clean water, why college education isn’t basically free, why millions of people don’t have health insurance, and so on. Corporate welfare is like a black hole, distorting our entire economy.