Warren Delivered for Massachusetts Defense Interests in Senate

2020 candidate now calling for crackdown on Pentagon lobbying

Elizabeth Warren / Getty Images
June 13, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) released a plan last month to crack down on corporate lobbying influence at the Pentagon, but she has worked aggressively on behalf of major defense interests in Massachusetts during her time in the Senate.

A 2015 report in Politico detailed her advocacy for General Dynamics-made tactical radios, which received poor grades in combat tests, and relationship with defense giants General Dynamics and Raytheon. A local defense executive noted that the industry had backed Republican former senator Scott Brown, whom Warren unseated in 2012, due to his position on the Senate Armed Services Committee allowing him to represent home-state contractors. But Politico quoted the executive touting Warren's efforts to reach out to Raytheon and General Dynamics, and Raytheon's spokesman saying it had a "positive relationship" with her:

[T]he executive said Warren's made an effort to reach out to defense companies, including visits to Raytheon and General Dynamics facilities in her state, and that "there's certainly not an impression that she's adversarial" to big-name contracting firms. "The folks that work in our industry are just as much her constituents as anybody else is," said the executive, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

Raytheon, which is headquartered in Massachusetts, "has a positive relationship with Sen. Warren, and we interact with her and her staff regularly," said company spokesman Michael Doble.

Warren spoke with Raytheon chief executive William Swanson over the phone during the 2012 Senate campaign, according to the Boston Globe, where they discussed the potential impact of automatic defense budget cuts from sequestration.

Warren also went to bat alongside fellow Massachusetts lawmakers for the Army's Warfighter Information Network—Tactical (WIN-T), following Pentagon efforts to divert $128 million from the program to pay Afghanistan war costs. Politico reported it was "a reprogramming request that was blocked by the congressional defense panels following a lobbying campaign orchestrated by General Dynamics":

Another defense executive told POLITICO at the time that her advocacy for WIN-T was "a big deal" given the fact that the industry was skeptical of her commitment to helping out home-state defense firms. It was "a very good step in the right direction," said the executive, also requesting anonymity to offer his candid thoughts on the senator.

She accepted $82,444 in donations from 2011 to 2018 from defense industry members, although the report stated she was not on the "radar" of national defense lobbyists.

Now a 2020 presidential candidate, Warren unveiled The Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act last month as a means of limiting defense contractor influence on the military and generating greater transparency on interactions between contractors and the Pentagon.

"We need to fundamentally change the way Washington does business and put power back in the hands of the American people – that includes making sure national security decisions are driven only by what best keeps Americans safe, and not by defense industry profit-making," Warren said in a statement at the time.

She sharply criticized acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and was unsatisfied with an investigation clearing him of using his position to benefit his former employer Boeing.

"Shanahan's obvious potential conflicts of interest remain," Warren said, according to DefenseNews. "The truth is that our existing laws are far too weak to effectively limit the undue influence of giant military contractors at the Department of Defense. The response of Congress shouldn't be to confirm Shanahan. It should be to change the rules."

Warren shot off a series of tweets Wednesday blasting former State Department official Charles Faulkner, a former arms-industry lobbyist being investigated by Democrats for his role in a Trump administration weapons sale to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They included arms made by Raytheon.

"Officials should work for the American people, not their former defense contractor clients," Warren tweeted.