Rep. Tom Rooney (bottom right) will be facing off against senior members of the Armed Services Committee as he attempts to cut funding for an alternate fighter engine.
“To the new people that might not have time to get into the weeds as I have ... this is a great opportunity to let the American people know it’s not business and lobbying as usual in Washington,” the Congressman added. “We’ve gotten ideas of who’s sort of on the fence, and I’ll go sit with them and talk with them. I’m giving [them] my cell phone to call over the weekend.”
Staffers, lobbyists and Members who support the alternate engine argue that having a second one will help keep both contractors responsive and will ultimately save money. Each jet would only carry one engine, so the idea is that the two companies would compete for each order. A spokesman for Boehner explained that the Speaker, “along with the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and a strong, bipartisan majority in House,” supports the program. He cited a Government Accountability Office report that says the alternative engine will save taxpayer money in the long term.
Josh Holly, spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee, said the panel “respects the view of all Members.”
But he noted that, based on past votes, the committee has supported the two-engine option for the Joint Strike Fighter.
Most of the Members think “it lowers the cost of the overall program and will lead to increased power in the engines,” Holly added.
Despite the heavy hitters under the Dome who are pressing this issue, Pratt & Whitney and GE maintain impressive rosters of outside lobbyists and message makers.
And in recent weeks, three sources said, GE has tapped new help on the alternate engine fight, including former Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), who runs Gephardt Government Relations, and former top House GOP leadership aide Susan Hirschmann, a principal at Williams & Jensen. Gephardt previously lobbied for GE on the merger of its then-division NBC and Comcast.
For its part, Pratt & Whitney has the quiet help of Ed Gillespie, the former protege to then-Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) and one-time counselor to President George W. Bush. Gillespie is not registered to lobby on behalf of Pratt & Whitney or its parent company, United Technologies, but three sources said he is doing nonlobbying communications work on the engine issue.
The firms registered to lobby for Pratt & Whitney or United Technologies include bipartisan shops Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, Ogilvy Government Relations, the Podesta Group and Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates. The company also has Park Strategies, the firm of former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.), on retainer.
The GE side, in addition to a large in-house roster of lobbyists, sends work to former Senators-turned-lobbyists John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who last year merged their firm into Patton Boggs. Clark & Weinstock, Michael N. Matton & Associates, Robison International and Tassey & Associates also report working for GE, as does Hogan Lovells’ Candida Wolff, who was Bush’s top Congressional liaison.
In all, GE reported spending a little more than $39 million on lobbying last year, while United Technologies reported $14.5 million for its 2010 federal lobbying.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.