Updated 1/14/21 at 4:45 pm EST with Maxar comment
WASHINGTON — The world’s two largest defense companies have joined a growing number of American industrial titans pausing their political donations after Lockheed Martin and Boeing announced Wednesday they would halt contributions following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. capitol.
A third major defense contractor, BAE Systems, also announced Wednesday that it was pausing political spending in the U.S.
Those three join other defense prime contractors, including Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies, Leidos and Hunting Ingalls Industries, which all announced earlier this week they would reexamine political donations. The announcements, which have now come from six of the 10 largest U.S. based defense contractors, arrived as thousands of National Guardsmen are preparing to lock down Washington to ensure a similar attack does not occur during the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden.
A day later, Maxar Technologies, a space technologies company specializing in earth imagery, also announced plans to pause the use of its PAC “in order to reevaluate and ensure that we are in full alignment to our company values and goals in light of these unprecedented times,” a spokesman said. “We aim to have a decision by the end of Q1.”
In an unattributed corporate statement, Boeing said “We continuously assess our political action committee contributions to ensure that Boeing supports those who reflect our company’s values. Boeing strongly condemns the violence, lawlessness and destruction that took place in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Given the current environment, we are not making political contributions at this time. We will continue to carefully evaluate future contributions to ensure that we support those who not only support our company, but also uphold our country’s most fundamental principles.”
Lockheed’s corporate statement was even broader, without a mention of Jan. 6 riot. The statement says the company “routinely evaluates and updates our political action committee contribution strategy to reflect our core values and the constantly changing political landscape and priorities. As we enter a new political cycle, we are not making political contributions as we continue this evaluation to ensure our political donation and engagement program remains aligned with our business priorities.”
BAE Systems spokeswoman Tammy Thorp said that “In response to the deeply disturbing violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, our U.S. political action committee has suspended all donations while we assess the path forward.”
The company stances, as well as those of the four defense firms who previously made statements, are focused on pausing political donations to all political candidates. That is a safer tactic than a number of non-defense companies, including Marriot Hotels and MasterCard, which specifically pledged to stop financially supporting the 147 members of Congress who voted against the certification of Biden’s electoral victory on Jan. 6.
Additionally, corporate PACs often lower giving at the start of a new Congress to assess strategy, meaning a pledge to pause all donations for an indeterminate period of time may have less force behind it than it appears.
Among those members were several leaders of the House Armed Services Committee, including incoming ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama. Other notables included tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee ranking member Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, seapower and projection forces subcommittee ranking member Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, and intelligence and emerging threats subcommittee ranking member Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.
Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO, seen as the leader of the effort against certification in the senate, has faced particular pushback.
Given those leadership roles, it’s of little surprise then that major defense firms have been regular donors to those members. According to OpenSecrets.com, which analyzed leadership PACs and individual donations for the 2020 election cycle, Lockheed, Northrop, Raytheon and Boeing were among the top 20 overall donors to the members who opposed Biden’s certification.
Lockheed, at $794,353, was 9th on the list; Boeing, at $662,701, was 20th. Overall in the 2020 election cycle, Lockheed employees and PAC gave $6.28 million, Boeing’s employees and PAC $7.06 million. BAE Systems employees and PAC gave just under $1.7 million during the election cycle. Maxar’s employees and PAC contributed a little under $200,000 in the last cycle.
Valerie Insinna in Washington contributed to this report.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.