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Thornberry’s Committee Prospects Bring Defense Donors

More top defense industry executives and lobbyists have written checks to the re-election campaign of Mac Thornberry than to his potential rivals for the House Armed Services Committee chairmanship.

Wes Bush, chairman and chief executive officer of Northrop Grumman Corp., gave $2,500 to Thornberry, according to Federal Election Commission records. Contributions to the Texas Republican’s campaign from executives of Falls Church, Virginia-based company added up to $16,500, according to 2013 year-end FEC filings.

The Northrop executives didn’t write personal checks to the campaigns of Thornberry’s potential Republican competitors for the chairmanship, Randy Forbes of Virginia and Mike Turner of Ohio. They did give to the campaign of current Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon of California before he announced his plans to retire.

“It’s a classic case of someone who is next in line,” David Wasserman, House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said of the donations to Thornberry. He said it’s a sign of “someone who’s elevation is anticipated and, as a result, there is an infusion of campaign funds.”

Among the contributors to Thornberry, Sid Ashworth, vice president of Northrop’s Government Affairs unit and a former Senate Appropriations Committee staff member, donated $1000. Several other leaders in the company, including Gloria Flach, the president of the electronic systems unit, also gave to him. Those donations all were dated Nov. 4, 2013.

The company’s political action committee also gave $10,000, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.

Defense Lobbyists

Bush and Ashworth donated to McKeon, as did James Blue, CEO of General Atomics, the maker of Predator drones.

FEC records also show contributions to Thornberry’s campaign from defense lobbyists, including James Dyer of the Podesta Group and James Ervin of Ervin Hill Strategy. John Scofield, a former House Appropriations Committee staff member who now runs his own shop, Shockey Scofield Solutions, donated $1,000 to Thornberry’s re-election.

Last month, Thornberry got a boost in his chairmanship bid, winning the endorsement of incumbent McKeon, who said his colleague from Texas would be an “excellent” leader of the panel.

Thornberry serves in a newly created committee position, vice chairman, and was assigned by McKeon to examine ways to overhaul the Pentagon’s acquisition practices.

Forbes, Turner

Though the Forbes and Turner re-election campaigns trailed Thornberry on contributions from defense executives, both won backing from defense companies’ political action committees, including those of Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp., Newport News, Virginia-based Huntington Ingalls Industries and Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics Corp.

Huntington Ingalls and BAE Systems have a naval industrial presence in Virginia and the Hampton Roads area that Forbes represents. He’s also the chairman of the Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

As is customary for lawmakers eyeing powerful chairmanships, Thornberry is taking care of his colleagues, having donated $165,000 for the 2013-2014 election cycle to the National Republican Campaign Committee, the House Republicans’ election arm, the records show.

Forbes has donated about $62,000 to the NRCC, while Turner gave about $7,000 before the end of 2013, according to the FEC records.

When the Center for Responsive Politics categorized donations based on FEC data available in mid-December, Thornberry ranked among the top 10 in donations from the defense industry, with $147,000.

Forbes’s campaign had received $90,000 from defense interests during the same period while Turner had collected $39,000, according to the data.

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