The Axis of Pork

Capitol Hill’s defense-reform killers.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


The Bomb Thrower

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)

Pet program: Will battle to the death for the partly Okie-built Future Combat Systems—the Army’s gee-whiz plan to interlink all manner of weapons, vehicles, and robots—which Gates slated for cancellation.

* Has accused Obama of trying to “disarm America” in order to increase “welfares.”

The Point Man

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)

Pet program: The F-22 is assembled in Georgia. This Cold War-era plane was put into production before being fully tested; technical problems have caused costs to skyrocket to $351 million, more than double original projections. This infamous golden turkey has never flown even a single combat mission.

* Chambliss may have finagled five deferments from the Vietnam War, but when it comes to legislative combat, he’s in his element. The Georgia delegation is the most aggressive defender of the F-22, which Chambliss has brought back from the brink of cancellation before.

The Cold Warrior

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)

Pet programs: The F-22, whose engines are constructed in Connecticut. Also missile defense, which is not constructed in Connecticut. Lieberman just likes it.

* Lieberman will be a canny opponent of even minor cuts to missile defense—even if it means risking his fragile détente with the president.

Patty Murray

The Stealth Fighter

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

Pet program: Seattle-based Boeing makes the C-17, part of Future Combat Systems, and also constructs wings and fuselages for the F-22.

* Murray, the leading recipient of defense and aerospace donations this election cycle, is resisting change to the Pentagon’s broken procurement process. She’s already tried to pass legislation banning cuts that cause job losses—basically a poison pill for reform.

The Humanitarian

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)

Pet program: The C-17, a cargo plane assembled by 5,000 workers in Long Beach.

* For three years the Pentagon has said it doesn’t need any more C-17s, which cost around $266 million each. And for three years Boxer and the California delegation have insisted the government buy more. (She squares this with her anti-war résumé by arguing that they help humanitarian missions.) This year she helped secure eight more planes.

John Murtha

The Last Line of Defense

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.)

Pet programs: All of them. Inouye, known as “king of pork” and chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Murtha, the House’s top recipient of defense dollars, target of corruption probes, and earmarker extraordinaire, get Congress’ last word on DOD funding.

* Murtha, who often allots money for projects that the Pentagon has not requested, launched an annual contractors’ fair dubbed “MurthaFest.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest