The United States Army doesn’t really need or want any more Humvees because they are effectively impractical death traps in the modern conflict zone. The Army is very public about wanting to use the billion dollars it would spend on Humvees on something else it thinks might actually be useful. This effort, though, is being stopped by the chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.). Why is that? Well according to Adam Weinstein at Mother Jones:
You probably don’t know C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. But the folks who make Humvees sure do: Since 2003, AM General has given Young at least $26,350 through its political action committee and 11 of its top executives. Their CFO and his wife have poured more than 10 grand into Young’s reelection coffers. Last year, the automaker’s PAC also gave $5,000 to Young’s GOP colleague on the panel, Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey.
[UPDATE: Today, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank follows up on this story and updates my numbers: Turns out Rep. Bill Young hasn't gotten $26,350 in contributions from the builders of the Humvee. He's gotten $80,000.]
One of the most frustrating things about American politics is that money given like this, as a “political donation,” is basically never viewed as an illegal bribe.
If a company gives a member of Congress a suitcase with $100,000 in it for him or her to vote a certain way, that is an illegal bribe. During the Civil War, giving money to government officials to assure the army bought ineffective equipment was called “war profiteering.” Yet now, if a company “donated” $100,000 to an individual’s campaign so the Representative can spend that money on keeping their roughly $200,000 a year job, that is “just how politics works.”
Of course, without public financing of elections, there is almost no way to raise the money needed to run for office without getting huge donations from corporations with billions in potential profits riding on how they vote.