Now, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is calling on the defense contractor to "explain to Congress and the American public" the payment, according to the Connecticut Post. The Post reports that Northrop has announced it is shuttering a plant in Connecticut.
The Post reports:
"The company owes that explanation, particularly in light of its decision to close the Northrop plant in Norwalk,'' Blumenthal said. ...
Blumenthal, a freshman member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said MacKenzie's bonus "is totally inexplicable.''
At the least, Blumenthal said, "The perception is horrible, at a time when the credibility of Congress is certainly in question. I'm concerned about the integrity of the Defense Department budget if it is tainted by any whiff of a payoff.''
Efforts to reach MacKenzie were unsuccessful, but Northrop said there was nothing unusual about the payment, and the Armed Services Committee said he was an excellent hire.
Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) took back over this committee after the GOP won back the House and then tapped someone from Northrup Grumman one of the three major aerospace companies to start work with the Committee in March of 2011. If that is not a conflict of interest, I don't know the meaning. Taking a vice president at Northrop Grumman, Thomas MacKenzie, defies any sense of ethics that I can think of today and then learning that Northrop paid him a huge bonus before he took the job makes it worse. A little recent background on Mr. MacKenzie, a former Naval aviator and Naval Academy grad:
MacKenzie joined Northrop Grumman in 2005 as corporate director of navy programs. Before coming to Northrop Grumman, he had spent seven years as the senior professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee where he was responsible for providing recommendations on oversight of all aviation, shipbuilding and associated weapons systems development and procurement programs.
ARLINGTON, Va., May 17, 2007 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has named Thomas L. MacKenzie, vice president of naval programs. In this position, MacKenzie reports to Larry Lanzillotta, vice president of customer relations within Northrop Grumman's government relations organization located in the company's Washington office.That second paragraph above from the Northrop Grumman press release screams lobbyist. So Mr. MacKenzie goes from senior staff on the Armed Services Committee to a fat cat job with Northrop and then gets promoted, goes back to Armed Services and gets a huge bonus from Northrop. We are supposed to just do a wink and nod -- nothing to see here folks just move along.
When I changed the name of the blog to incorporate Republicans, little did I realize that it would be so true. How much did Northrop donate McKeon to get their person on the Committee? From Open Secrets:
Top 5 Contributors, 2011-2012, Campaign Cmte
Contributor Total Indivs PACs Lockheed Martin $64,250 $54,250 $10,000 Northrop Grumman $50,500 $34,500 $16,000 General Dynamics $36,000 $26,000 $10,000 General Atomics $32,500 $22,500 $10,000 Boeing Co $31,750 $21,750 $10,000
Top 5 Industries, 2011-2012, Campaign Cmte
Industry Total Indivs PACs Defense Aerospace $168,500 $84,000 $84,500 Misc Defense $144,100 $66,600 $77,500 Defense Electronics $116,500 $51,000 $65,500 Lobbyists $46,349 $44,384 $1,965 Education $43,250 $26,250 $17,000
Representative McKeon, by far the biggest recipient of Northrop Grumman campaign contributions in Congress, has defended billions of dollars in questionable projects for MacKenzie’s former employer. McKeon has fought to cancel the retirement of the Northrop’s RQ-4 Global Hawk, a drone the Pentagon could save $2.5 billion by cutting. He’s pressed to secure funding for a range of different aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman, from a new nuclear-capable long-range bomber to the F-35, which is slated to be the most expensive weapon developed in human history. Earlier this year, McKeon visited a Northrop plant and rallied employees to help him stave off nearly $500 billion in sequestration cuts to the defense budget as part of the deficit-reduction deal.
June 11, 2012 | 2:08 p.m.
In 2011, after Republicans seized the House of Representatives in a landslide victory, the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees the military, gained a new chairman, Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA). As with most leadership changes, McKeon and his committee hired new professional staff. Thomas MacKenzie, a vice president at Northrop Grumman, was tapped to work for the committee beginning in March of 2011.Source: Influence Alley of the National Journal
There are many examples of lobbyists burrowing into government to work in policy areas that impact their former employers. These lobbyists, as Public Citizen's Craig Holman, an expert on lobbying, has explained, seem happy to accept low-paid public service salaries, perhaps because they can expect extremely high pay once they return to K Street.
In MacKenzie's case, Northrop Grumman made sure he had extra cash before he went to work writing policy on the defense budget. Republic Report viewed a recently filed ethics disclosure form, and found that Northrop Grumman paid MacKenzie a $498,334 bonus in 2011, just before he went to work under McKeon as a committee staffer. The bonus was almost the size of MacKenzie's annual salary at the firm, which was $529,379 in 2010.
Neither MacKenzie or the House Armed Services Committee communications director responded to multiple requests for comment from Republic Report. As a congressional staffer, MacKenzie now makes close to $100,000 a year.