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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Full body scanners: It's all about money

I'm sure you'll all be shocked to hear that the two companies that sell those full body scanners to the Federal government more than doubled their lobbying money in the last five years, and that both of them employ high-powered lobbyists. One of them even employed the former Secretary of Homeland Security as a lobbyist.
L-3 Communications, which has sold $39.7 million worth of the machines to the federal government, spent $4.3 million trying to influence Congress and federal agencies during the first nine months of this year, up from $2.1 million in 2005, lobbying data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics show. Its lobbyists include Linda Daschle, a former Federal Aviation Administration official.

Rapiscan Systems, meanwhile, has spent $271,500 on lobbying so far this year, compared with $80,000 five years earlier. It has faced criticism for hiring Michael Chertoff, the former Homeland Security secretary, last year. Chertoff has been a prominent proponent of using scanners to foil terrorism. The government has spent $41.2 million with Rapiscan.

"The revolving door provides corporations like these with a short cut to lawmakers" and other decision-makers, said Sheila Krumholz, of the Center for Responsive Politics.


The lobbying by both firms covered a broad array of topics. This year, L-3 Communications reported lobbying on nearly two dozen bills, ranging from homeland security appropriations to military construction. Among the bills targeted by L-3 lobbyists: legislation proposed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, that would limit the use of the scanners at airports as a backup measure only.

Chaffetz's measure passed the House last year, but it stalled in the Senate after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's alleged attempt in December 2009 to ignite an explosive powder on a flight to Detroit.

The attempted bombing contributed to the bill's demise, Chaffetz said, "But I also routinely heard that 'Secretary Chertoff believes this is the right thing to do. Who are you to challenge him?' "


Chertoff's firm provided advice to Rapiscan on "non-aviation security issues" and is no longer a consultant, said Peter Kant, a Rapiscan executive vice president.

Chertoff spokeswoman Katy Montgomery said Chertoff's firm "played no role in the sale of whole-body imaging technology" to the government, and he was not compensated for his public statements.

Daschle, the wife of former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, lobbied against Chaffetz's bill. She said bombs represent a real threat. "I don't think it was Linda Daschle that made the difference" in L-3 Communications' success, she said. "I think it was people understanding what the threat is and seeing these capable solutions."
For those who have forgotten, Tom Daschle was forced to withdraw from consideration after being nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services by Barack Obama. Mr. Daschle forgot to pay $120,000 in taxes.

Follow the money folks.

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