Ron Paul may not support increasing defense spending, but he is certainly receiving the support of those who work in the defense industry.
U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) contribution records analyzed by Defense News showed that the GOP presidential hopeful received both the most contributions and the largest total amount of cash among Republican candidates from employees of the world's top 100 defense companies.
Those employees contributed a total of $177,413.39 to Paul's campaign in 2011, spread over 824 individual contributions for an average of $215.31.
Mitt Romney, whose platform includes an increase in defense spending, barely trails Paul in the total value of contributions, with $173,835. But Romney, who is battling Rick Santorum for the lead in national opinion polls, received only 198 contributions. The resulting average — $877.95 — far outpaced any other candidate, more than doubling the next highest, Santorum's $409.25.
“Of all the candidates seeking the nomination from either party, Romney is the most establishment oriented candidate,” said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer at the Lexington Institute. “You would expect more affluent people who are well established in the industry to be giving money to him in disproportionate amounts.”
The contribution records, from filings submitted by the campaigns to the FEC in January, lists each individual contribution received by candidates in 2011, along with information on the contributors, including their employer. The 110,945 total contributions listed by the Republican candidates pale in comparison to the 250,461 listed by President Barack Obama's campaign, although incumbents typically have an advantage in fundraising.
Since individuals can contribute more than once in a calendar year, the total number of contributions does not necessarily reflect the total number of contributors.
Paul's support, given his position that defense spending needs to be reined in, would seem to run contrary to the economic interests of the defense company employees donating to his campaign.
Thompson said the numbers reflect a wider political reality about contractors. “There's a strong libertarian streak among many in the sector,” he said. “Just because people work in the defense industry, doesn't mean that they always vote their economic interests.”
Gary Howard, a spokesman for the Paul campaign, cited the support of members of the military as evidence of Paul's broad base.
“Those in the defense community, like other supporters, likely find that Dr. Paul's common-sense foreign policy and the serious attention he pays to our nation's number one security threat — our debt — are the most vital issues a presidential candidate must address,” he wrote in an email.
The Romney campaign did not immediately return calls or emails for comment.
The numbers do not include contributions to political action committees (PACs) or super PACs, which have poured millions into the Republican primary. Rules governing PACs and super PACs make it difficult to identify donors and who is receiving the money.
Both Newt Gingrich and Santorum trailed Paul and Romney in total dollars from defense employees. They received $27,310 and $8,185, respectively.
Boeing employees topped those of any other defense company in the value of contributions to both the Paul and Santorum campaigns, while also making the top five for Newt Gingrich.
Employees of the consulting firm Deloitte topped the list for Romney and Gingrich, ranking second for Santorum.
Employees of Lockheed Martin, the world's largest defense contractor by revenue, made the top five for contributions to every campaign, including Obama's, save for Romney's.
Obama, who collected $347,975.49 to lead all candidates, had the second lowest average per contribution behind Paul, at $225.52. Obama received 1,543 individual contributions, more than his four potential challengers combined.
“The upper ranks of the industry are full of lifelong Democrats,” Thompson said.
Paul is also receiving a majority of the contributions from members of the armed services, a Feb. 9 report by Military Times found.
Paul took in $242,507 from 1,405 donations in 2011, while Obama took in $130,041 from 1,156 donations. Romney ran a distant third with $22,753 from 55 donations.