In Los Angeles last night there was a major bash on the waterfront for so called Blue Dog Democrats— that’s the term for conservative Democrats in Congress. They are headed by John Breaux of Louisianna. The hosts of this party include major corporations like cigarette giant Philip Morris, Pepsi Cola, as well as the major arms manufacturer Raytheon.
Raytheon is a Massachusetts-based company specializing in missiles, military equipment, electronic information systems, and aircraft. It reported nearly $20 billion in revenue last year. In addition to being a major supplier of weapons to the United States military, Raytheon supplies weapons to the Indonesian army and other nations with terrible human rights records. It is also a major manufacturer of components of antipersonnel land mines.
Raytheon has been investigated and brought to court repeatedly: for illegally obtaining documents from the US Army, spying on competitors, inflating contracts, selling equipment to Pakistan despite US sanctions on the country, bribing Brazilian politicians, and failing to properly test weapon components. Raytheon is also a major contributor to both the Democratic and Republican parties.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Raytheon spent more than one and a half million dollars on lobbying in 1998. During that election cycle, it donated more than $82,800 in soft money to the Democratic Party and more than $92,000 to the Republican Party. It is also helping to carry out tests of the Star Wars missile defense system. Reports in the New York Times have suggested that researchers rigged these tests and lied about their results.
Well, today we are going to take a close look at the Raytheon corporation and its support for the Democratic Party, as well as the issue of a National Missile Defense system. Raytheon is one of the "Big Four" NMD contractors throwing money around here in Los Angeles this week. And this issue of national missile defense is one of the major debates happening around the Democratic Platform pushed through by Al Gore and company.
The Platform draft states "Al Gore and the Democratic Party support the development of the technology for a limited national missile defense system that will be able to defend the U.S. against a missile attack from proliferant states. A decision to deploy such a system should be made based on four criteria: the nature of the threat; the feasibility of the technology; the cost; and the overall impact on our national security, including arms control."
- Representative Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio. He also helped lead a Progressive Caucus effort to modify the Democratic Platform plank language dealing with missile defense.
- Bill Hartung, a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute.
- Peter Ferenbach, the Director of the California Peace Action Education Fund.