DNC - McCain Myth Buster: John McCain and Defense Contracts

Today's McCain Myth: John McCain is an impartial watchdog in the Air Force tanker deal.

- As he defends himself against charges that he helped steer an Air Force contract toward a European company that many of his top aides were lobbyists for, McCain has portrayed himself as an impartial watchdog who fought for "a full, fair and open competition." But the record shows McCain repeatedly intervened on behalf of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. In the period during which EADS and Boeing were competing for the deal, McCain repeatedly echoed EADS's criticisms of the process used to award the contract, including writing letters to the Pentagon. He also threatened to hold hearings and requested an audit of Air Force proposal requirements. In return, McCain received at least $12,000 from top executives last year "even as his presidential campaign was foundering" and received more contributions from company employees and the company's PAC than any other individual this election cycle. [New York Times, 3/12/08; AP, 3/11/08; Inside the Airforce, 2/2/07; Aviation Weekly, 10/2/06; New York Times, 12/26/06; The Hill, 3/7/08, Seattle Post Intelligencer, 3/7/2008; Washington Post, 3/12/08]

How can McCain claim impartiality when he repeatedly tipped the scale in favor of a company that employed his lobbyist-friends?

EADS Says: Change Criteria To Factor In Cargo And Passengers… EADS' team "has complained that a draft version of the request includes no criteria for measuring the competing planes' extra features - chief among them the ability to carry cargo and passengers in addition to fuel. Those added features are considered a key advantage" in winning the contract." [Mobile Register, 1/16/07]

…McCain Says Same Thing: Around the same period - late 2006 and early 2007 - McCain wrote to incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a letter that "echoed" the EADS complains that the Pentagon was not planning to "effectively evaluate differences between the candidate aircraft's capability to execute key missions such as airlift and the number of passengers it can haul in addition to fuel." [Inside the Airforce, 2/2/07]

EADS Complains That WTO Provisions Will Hurt Their Bid…In mid-2006, the EADS team "urged the Pentagon on Friday to drop a requirement that might favor Boeing 's rival drive to sell aerial-refueling tankers to the U.S. Air Force" by taking into account a pending trade dispute on European government subsidies to EADS/Airbus. [Seattle Times, 6/10/06]

…And McCain Mimics Their Complaints…McCain "exchanged a volley of letters with Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England over the WTO issue. McCain says he's concerned that taking that matter into account will 'eliminate the competition even before bids are submitted.'" Ultimately, "under pressure from Mr. McCain, announced it was rewriting some of the rules" for the bid relating to WTO" [Aviation Weekly, 10/2/06; NY Times, 12/26/06]

In Alabama, McCain Said He'll Hold Hearings Unless Contract Receives At Least Two Bids. In Alabama, McCain "repeated his call for a fair and open competition to build the U.S. Air Force's next-generation fleet of aerial refueling tankers, saying the service must attract at least two bids for the contract or face congressional hearings." McCain, "who was in Montgomery as a guest at Gov. Bob Riley's inauguration, said he was concerned that ongoing complaints about the Air Force's bidding criteria could prompt" the EADS/Northup team from competing. They were the only potential Boeing competitor [Mobile Register, 1/16/07]

McCain Also Requested Audit Into Air Force Proposal Requirements. In 2007, "at the request" of McCain staff, the Pentagon's Inspector General completed an audit "to independently review and advise 'whether the Air Force request for proposal for an aerial tanker replacement contained impediments to competition and whether the request for proposal included capability or operational requirements for aircraft refueling and cargo transport.'" [Defense Daily, 6/4/07]

McCain Received Contributions From EADS "As Campaign Was Foundering." "McCain himself has received support from the EADS North America executive suite. He has received more than $12,000 in campaign donations from some of the company's top U.S. officials, support that continued even as his presidential campaign was foundering in mid- to late 2007." [Seattle Post Intelligencer, 3/7/2008, http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/354300_mccaintanker08.html ]

After casting himself as a "Maverick" in 2000, the new John McCain is walking in lockstep with President Bush, pandering to the right wing of the Republican Party, and embracing the ideology he once denounced. On the campaign trail McCain has callously abandoned many of his previously held positions, even contradicted himself, in a blatant attempt to remake himself into a candidate Republicans can accept in 2008. So just who is the real John McCain? The Democratic National Committee will present a daily fact aimed at exposing the man behind the myth.