On Monday morning, March 8, J.S. (Stan) Kimmitt, a former secretary of the Senate and now vice president for government affairs of Hughes Helicopters Inc., presided over what he later described as "a team meeting" of a dozen Washington representatives for some of the nation's biggest defense contractors.
Hughes is the prime contractor on the Army's AH64 Apache attack helicopter, one of the more costly and controversial of the Army's new weapons programs. In the past few months, the Army's projected cost estimate for the first AH64s has risen almost 40 percent, making the entire $6 billion, 356-helicopter program a prime target for legislators seeking to cut defense spending.
The "team" Kimmitt brought together in his Connecticut Avenue office consisted of men working for the major subcontractors on the helicopter program, including General Electric, Martin-Marietta, Litton, Rockwell International and Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical.
The group meets "every six weeks to two months," Kimmitt said, so he can give an "update" on the status of their program and then share information, "including the attitudes and the impressions we're getting from Capitol Hill about the program and defense budgets."
After that, Kimmitt said, "everybody's on their own" in terms of working Capitol Hill, although the veteran of 15 years in the Senate quickly added: "There are a relatively limited number of target areas for any weapons program...the Armed Services, Appropriations and Budget committees."
To reach those targets, Kimmitt commands an impressive force that Hughes has employed to push its financially embattled weapons system:
Jim Lloyd, a former Democratic congressman who served on the Armed Services panel before he lost in the 1980 election. According to records filed with the current secretary of the Senate, Lloyd said he had been hired by Hughes at $2,500 a month beginning in last October to work on "all legislation" involving the AH64 and a second helicopter weapons program, the AHIP. Lloyd said he was hired last March by Kimmitt and Carl Perry, another Hughes official, and that he resigned in January when he announced another run for Congress.
Charles H. Cromwell, a former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee staff who, since March, 1980, has been working not only for Hughes but also for the General Electric Aircraft Engine Division, which makes the engines used on the AH64. Cromwell, in his lobbying registration statement filed with the Senate, said he would receive $1,000 per quarter from both companies. He declined to talk about his activities, but Rep. Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass.) said Cromwell had visited him to talk about GE weapons systems, in part because the company has a plant in his district.
Les Gilbert, a former Army colonel who worked with Congress years ago when the Army was promoting the Cheyenne helicopter, forerunner of the AH64. Gilbert now serves as an assistant to Kimmitt. Among Gilbert's duties is checking in with the Army officers who now run the AH64 program in the Pentagon. He helps keep the Army informed about what Hughes is doing on Capitol Hill and in return is briefed on what the Army is up to, according to a Pentagon source.
Charles Botsford, a former Air Force officer who worked as a Pentagon liaison officer before his retirement. He now serves as a consultant to Hughes on the AH64, according to Kimmitt.
Kimmitt said last week he had not registered on Capitol Hill as a lobbyist because "that is not my main function." Instead, he said, his basic role is to "provide information when asked and act as a listening post for Hughes."
He does, however, dispatch his own men to deliver material on request, he said. As an illustration, he recalled that "Adam Klein, a staff member of the House Armed Services Committee, asked for a briefing last week" on the AH64, and Botsford delivered it.
Contacted Friday, Klein said: "If the impression is I sought them out, that impression is wrong. I think I ran into Charlie Botsford in the hall. He gave me a position paper" on the helicopter because "I didn't have time to sit for a briefing." And, he added, he doesn't even handle the AH64.
Lobbying is an old and accepted profession on Capitol Hill, but some of its least publicized practitioners are those who push for financing of weapons programs. As the defense budget has expanded, so has the number of defense contract lobbyists. And as the Pentagon cracked down on military officers taking trips and meals from defense contractor representatives, those favors began to flow more freely to members of Congress, according to Capitol Hill veterans.
Last October, before the House Appropriations Committee marked up the Pentagon money bill, two members of that committee went on a three-day hunting trip to Montana that was arranged in part by Kimmitt.
At the time, the first signs had appeared that costs of the AH64 were escalating at a rate that endangered the $365 million contained in the fiscal 1982 bill then before the committee to finance the first 14 production-model helicopters.
Last fall's hunting trip was one of the more sophisticated forms of activity--no favors directly given, no favors sought.
Kimmitt says he was only a middleman in setting up the trip: "I was approached by a noncongressional person who said these members wanted to go elk hunting." He arranged for them to be invited to a cabin in Montana and passed that information along.
Kimmitt said that at the time of trip, he attended a Montana International Trade Commission meeting and was "mutual guests" with the members "at a ranch at the end of the week."
However, Conte, one of the two members on the trip, said last week that the former Senate secretary arranged for him to go, introduced him to the man who owned the cabin he stayed at, and set up a speech in Montana that became the means by which his travel was paid.
Rep. Bill Chappell Jr. (D-Fla.), the other participant, confirmed that Kimmitt was around part of the time, but said Kimmitt had not arranged for him to go. He refused to say who had made his arrangements.
Both Conte and Chappell said last week that Kimmitt did not speak to them about the Hughes helicopter during their time away from Washington. Kimmitt said the trip "had no connection with lobbying the AH64."
But here in Washington the Kimmitt-promoted trip was described by some members of Congress and their staffs who work on defense matters as another sign that a congressional insider could develop access to members whose vote might be needed during committee deliberations.
Kimmitt has another bit of special status, according to several Hill veterans. One of his sons, Army Capt. R.S. Kimmitt, works at the Pentagon for the Army comptroller's office, they said, serving as a liaison officer with the Senate and House Appropriations committees.
Capt. Kimmitt does not handle the AH64 program but has traveled with members of Congress on inspection trips. His presence has raised questions in the minds of some Capitol Hill personnel.
Kimmitt bristled when asked about his son, a graduate of West Point.
"He's a damn fine young man" his father said, adding that his son was picked several years ago by the Army to go to graduate school to qualify for his present job.
"I have to tell you he absolutely has not discussed with me or anyone else the AH64," Kimmitt said, adding that when the subject comes up in his son's presence at the Pentagon or elsewhere, "he recuses himself."
Another son, Robert, is general counsel of the National Security Council, a fact less widely known among the legislators.
The elder Kimmitt noted that this son, too, is a West Point graduate and "apolitical." He pointed out that his son had held his current job under three administrations.
"I defy you," Kimmitt said, "to find any person in Washington" who says that in the case of either son "I get involved in their business or they get into mine."
Defense company representatives such as Kimmitt have another tool at their command in gaining access to members: political campaign funds.
Hughes Helicopter Political Action Committee has a relatively modest fund, but in 1981-82 it gave money to at least five of the seven Democrats on the House defense appropriations subcommittee. The year before it aided almost all the members.
Supplementing those contributions are donations from the Hughes Active Citizens Committee, a much larger PAC run by the helicopter company's former parent, the Summa Corp.
As an example of how the system can work, Florida's Chappell, who has won his last four elections with more than 65 percent of the vote, has been the beneficiary of campaign contributions from a variety of defense contractor PACs. As a man who runs against limited opposition, he has been able to accumulate an impressive campaign nest egg, according to Federal Election Commission records.
According to the records, as of April, 1981, Chappell's campaign committee had $30,968 in an E.F. Hutton cash management fund.
Last winter, when Chappell held a fund-raiser for his 1982 campaign, Hughes Aircraft's PAC came through with $1,000, which was augmented this January by $500 from the PAC fund by Hughes Helicopter.
In addition, several PACs run by subcontractors of the AH64 were among the donors to the Washington fund-raising reception. These included Rockwell International, which makes the Hellfire missile carried by the AH64 ($3,000); General Electric, which makes the engines ($250); and Litton Industries, which makes the transmission and engine nose gearbox ($500).
At the end of 1981, contributions had swelled the Chappell committee's E.F. Hutton fund to $49,690, according to FEC records.
For Kimmitt, campaign-fund distribution is an almost daily task. "I get in one week a dozen requests for contributions," he said, ". . . I make recommendations to our PAC on whom to support and at what level. . . . The PAC evaluates from Los Angeles and decides whether to participate or not."
Kimmitt serves on fund-raising committees such as the one now working up a Democratic Party dinner. He also says he "occasionally is asked to take on a list of representatives in the aerospace industry" and try to raise funds for some legislator.
"It is not unusual for me to get a call from a competitor," Kimmitt said, asking for a contribution to someone.
Looking over his operation, Kimmitt concluded that his company's "lobbying per se is no different than, and might even be less intensive," than that of other companies.
Defense does, however, have a much larger lobbying operation--at the Pentagon. For example, all this week the Army will have an AH64 helicopter on display at the Pentagon. It will be available each afternoon for test rides by members of Congress, their staffs and the press.