Lockheed lobbies to block bill to ban bonuses for defense firms


WASHINGTON -- Lockheed Martin Corp. has launched a lobbying campaign to kill House-passed legislation that would block the Pentagon from using $31 million in taxpayer money in a $92 million bonus package for top executives of the nation's largest defense contractor.

The corporate giant and senior Pentagon officials were caught off guard last week when the House approved an amendment to prohibit payment of the federal share of the bonus package, which critics called "corporate welfare at its worst."

The measure, introduced by liberal members of the House Progressive Caucus, was made part of the defense appropriations bill by a voice vote Friday.

It would limit Pentagon payment to normal executive compensation and prohibit use of federal money for defense company bonuses.

Now the amendment must be reconciled with Senate legislation in conference committee sessions later this month on funds for the Defense Department.

Chip Manor, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, said the company would use its lobbyists to urge Congress to kill the amendment during conference committee voting.

"This money was needed to keep our firm competitive with private industry. It was good for Lockheed Martin and it is good for American taxpayers," he said.

"The decision of Pentagon officials to give $31 million to the executives is indefensible," said Rep. Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent who chairs the Progressive Caucus.

"It's even more indefensible at a time when Congress wants to cut Medicare, education and other vital domestic programs."

Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, a leading critic of the Pentagon plan, yesterday launched a campaign with Senate Republicans to support the House-passed ban. He said the ban would "save $31 million in taxpayer money from going down a rat hole."

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