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Herstam: What Raytheon wants, Raytheon gets

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Monday musings: Analysis

Herstam: What Raytheon wants, Raytheon gets

  •  A launch of an SM-3 missile manufactured by Raytheon.
    Raytheon A launch of an SM-3 missile manufactured by Raytheon.

As the 2021 Arizona state budget is crafted behind Republican closed doors (as usual), look for a $3.5 million line item that funds new "hypersonic" research and expanded wind tunnels at the University of Arizona.

Why? Because Raytheon Missile Systems wants it. And you can count on Raytheon to get what it wants.

The Tucson-based missiles and defense industry corporation employs more than 12,000 southern Arizona residents, making it the state's 8th largest employer. Raytheon has more than 500 suppliers throughout the state and produces a $2.1 billion annual economic benefit to Arizona.

That's mostly thanks to the U.S. Defense Department and Raytheon's political clout. The company's stock was trading at $136 the day before Donald Trump's 2016 upset victory. The next day it shot up to $146, and there's been no looking back since. It's been hovering around $200 lately.

Raytheon makes $25 billion annually on defense products, a figure topped only by Lockheed Martin. It spent $8 million on lobbying the past two years, as Arizona Mirror has previously reported.

To say Raytheon is well connected is an understatement. U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was Raytheon's VP of governmental affairs from 2010 to 2017. His departure from the corporation in 2017 included a deferred compensation package in 2022, based partly on the Raytheon stock price.

Then there's Assistant Secretary of State Charles Faulkner who, according to The Intercept, before his presidential appointment "was paid handsomely by Raytheon to lobby lawmakers on defense procurement issues." As a Raytheon lobbyist, Faulkner worked for BGR Group, a firm that has extensive contracts with foreign governments and defense contractors. Since 2016, BGR has also been a registered agent for the Saudi Arabian government.

In his current post, Faulkner has been a key advocate for a $2 billion deal to give Saudi Arabia and UAE "air-to-ground munitions made by Raytheon" in the Yemen war.

The high-powered lobbying firm BGR also has employed diplomat Kurt Volker. Volker was BGR's managing director in 2011-2012, and since then has been a paid consultant.

While working for BGR clients, Volker was also executive director of the McCain Institute. He abruptly resigned that position last year after becoming embroiled in controversy regarding the infamous phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky that led to Trump's impeachment.

Raytheon makes the $390 million "tank-busting Javelin missiles" sought by Ukraine – the ones Trump was using as leverage. And the company has retained BGR as its lobbying firm for several years, as has the Ukrainian government.

Former Arizona U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl's client list at the Covington & Burling D.C. law firm includes – you guessed it – Raytheon. Kyl serves on the National Defense Strategy Commission, which often "advocates for increased defense spending." The commission was created to review the Pentagon's National Defense Strategy.

Raytheon also has supported Arizona officeholders. Its PAC distributed $12,500 to Arizona state and legislative candidates during the last election cycle.

Raytheon may not be well known outside of southern Arizona, but it's a powerful, well connected political giant.

Now, about that $3.5 million "hypersonic research" state budget request at the State Capitol?  It's a done deal. Raytheon gets what it wants.

Countdown to AZ debate and primary

The whirlwind Super Tuesday has come and gone. Tomorrow, six more states conduct their Democratic contests: Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington.

Then next week brings us the St. Patrick's Day primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. And all eyes will be focused on Arizona for this Sunday's nationally televised Democratic debate, to be broadcast at 6 pm from Arizona Federal Theatre in downtown Phoenix.

The two-hour Phoenix debate will be the first head-to-head matchup between 77-year-old Joe "the Comeback Kid" Biden and 78-year-old Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders.

Here's the big question: How many registered Arizona Democratic voters mailed in their early ballots before the Biden surge and the Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Bloomberg and Warren exits from the presidential race?

Maricopa County, which usually produces 65 percent of the state vote, gives us a clue. The Biden wave began Saturday, Feb. 29 in South Carolina. As of Monday, March 2, county officials said they had received 94,000 of the 567,500 requested early ballots mailed to voters – only 16.5 percent.

That's great news for the Biden campaign. More than 80 percent of Arizona's Democratic voters will vote knowing that Biden has become the front runner for the nomination after his inspiring comeback.

Just pick a qualified woman as your running mate, Joe. And make sure she's several years younger than you.

Brnovich & Co. attack on Obamacare continues

The shameful attack on the Affordable Care Act by more than a dozen Republican state attorneys general is alive and well. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the repeal effort.

Thanks to our own AG Mark Brnovich, Arizona is a party to the lawsuit that would destroy health insurance for millions throughout the nation. In Arizona alone, 300,000 people would lose their health insurance and 2.8 million would experience higher premiums due to pre-existing conditions.

The ACA is working well in Arizona. The uninsured population has decreased and more insurance carriers are participating in the program. Why eliminate it, especially when there is nothing with which to replace it?

Why endanger the ACA patient pre-existing conditions protection? Why jeopardize the ability of daughters and sons to be covered by their parents' insurance plans up to age 26?

The GOP refuses to accept that the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – is popular. It's working. It was saved in Congress by McCain's courageous thumbs-down, one of his last votes cast before succumbing to brain cancer.

Now Brnovich and his GOP counterparts – with support from the Trump administration – will rely on the conservative Supreme Court to destroy the inclusive health care insurance program.

Sadly, the court decision will probably come after the November general election to save Republicans from embarrassment this fall.

Let's hope Chief Justice John Roberts is consistent with his past ACA rulings and once again joins the four liberals on the court to uphold Obamacare.

Chris Herstam has four decades of experience at the Arizona state capitol. He has been an elected lawmaker, a gubernatorial chief of staff, a lobbyist, director of the Department of Insurance and president of the Arizona Board of Regents. Find him on Twitter at @chrisherstam.

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