In 1941, Sen. Harry Truman put 10,000 miles on his Dodge driving across the country to pay unannounced visits on defense contractors. He wanted to make sure none engaged in war profiteering, which he denounced as “treason.” FDR, who would tap Truman as veep in 1944, shared the sentiment: “I don’t want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster.”
That was then. Not only are defense contractors cashing in on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, members of Congress are sharing in the haul. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 151 U.S. lawmakers—more than one-fourth of the total—have invested as much as $196 million of their own money in companies rolling up Pentagon contracts.
Members are only required to report their assets in ranges, so their exact holdings are unknown, but the amounts are still staggering. Top of the list: John Kerry, with between $28 and $38 million invested in firms doing business with DoD.
He’s in good company. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, has $2 million of his portfolio tied to defense business. Sen. Joe Lieberman—chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee—and Rep. Howard Berman—head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee—are also enjoying war windfalls. Chair of the House Intelligence Subcommittee Jane Harmon has between $2 and $6 million invested.
Little wonder the war drags on. The people who sign checks to keep it going are getting a healthy kickback. That’s not exactly what Truman had in mind when he said “the buck stops here.”