Clinton Claims She Won't Send Military Contracts Overseas -- But She Did

05/12/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On Sunday, Sen. Hillary Clinton was asked to opine about the loss of jobs in Indiana and elsewhere, and whether that economic trend was irreversible. Her answer, which included a call to have manufacturing at the center of any economic revitalization, ended with the New York Democrat warning about the perils of sending military production overseas.

"If we're going to have a half-a-trillion-dollar defense budget, then I want to see American workers do what is necessary to produce the defense, materials and goods for our country," said Clinton.

It was strong line, combining a protectionist sentiment with national security emphasis. But Clinton's record on "outsourcing" defense jobs is a mixed bag.

In January 2005, Clinton deftly maneuvered -- from her perch on the Senate Armed Services Committee -- a multi-billion-dollar contract to buy presidential helicopters from a consortium including European companies.

That deal involved rewarding a $6.1 billion contract to the England based AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin to build 23 high-tech Marine One helicopters -- the President's chopper. Clinton pursued the measure, doggedly, because it meant more than 700 new jobs for her home state.

She called the new aircraft an "Oval Office in the sky." She took test flights, met with navy administrators and even called then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair to figure out how to secure the deal.

"Lockheed Martin won it fair and square," she said at the time, "and the people at the Owego [New York] plant worked their hearts out for this project."

Lockheed Martin, in turn, contributed $10,000 to Clinton's Political Action Committee and, more recently, $20,000 to Bill Clinton's foundation. In addition, the company, from October 2001 through January 2005, sponsored ten Clinton trips - often to visit the company's headquarters or the proposed site of the new plant - for a cost more than $8,000.

The Huffington Post first reported on the deal last month.

To be sure, about 70 percent of the jobs created by the deal ended up being domestic. And in the case of Marine One, the Lockheed Martin consortium was offering new and better technologies. But there were national security concerns to the transaction that mimicked those reflected by Clinton this Sunday.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, whose district includes Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. the company that lost out on the Marine One contract, lamented the fact that the President would be flying in a foreign made vehicle.

"Made in America should mean something," she said. "The Defense Department has some explaining to do."

While Sen. Chris Dodd, whose jurisdiction also includes the Sikorsky plant, offered an amendment that would have made foreign companies who developed the Marine One helicopter pledge to not conduct business with state sponsors of terrorism. AgustaWestland officials had attended an air show in Iran. Clinton, along with Sen. Chuck Schumer, however, maneuvered to kill Dodd's amendment.

On the campaign trail, the former first lady has proven far more protectionist about Defense contracts. In addition to her comments this Sunday, she came out in March against a $40 billion defense contract to build mid-flight refueling tankers to a team consisting of Northrop Grumman and EADS, a European company.

"I am deeply concerned," she said, "about the Bush administration's decision to outsource the production of refueling tankers for the American military."

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