Ties between Congress and the arms industry are hardly as adversarial as sometimes portrayed.
For example, Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), the House Armed Services Committee chairman, last year collected $5,000 for speaking visits to Northrop Corp., Rockwell International, TRW, McDonnell Douglas Corp. and the Air Force Association, according to financial disclosure documents. Other committee members own stock in corporations with Pentagon contracts or make weekend pilgrimages to Florida, spouses in tow, courtesy of defense industry associations.
And while members of Congress and their staffs routinely deplore the "revolving door" between the Pentagon and defense contractors, the leap from Capitol Hill to industry is rarely mentioned. Former representative Richard H. Ichord (D-Mo.) now represents a half-dozen of the largest defense firms; McDonnell Douglas' director of legislative liaison, Dennis P. Sharon, recently served as an aide to Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman.
Finally, the top 20 contractors have doubled their political giving since President Reagan took office, having donated $3.6 million to congressional and presidential campaigns last year, according to an Associated Press study.
The political action committee of the nation's biggest defense firm, for example -- the McDonnell Douglas Good Government Fund -- contributed to all 16 GOP members of the House Armed Services Committee seeking reelection last year and 27 of 29 Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The benefits of sitting on such a powerful panel can be seen in the case of Rep. Roy P. Dyson (D-Md.).
When he first ran for Congress in 1980, Dyson received nary a cent from the defense industry. When he ran for reelection in 1982, after staking out a House Armed Services seat, he received more than $9,000 from at least 17 major defense contractors.
When he ran again last year, the contributions nearly doubled to more than $17,000 from at least 20 contractors.
"You have to balance that off by the fact that he has four major military installations in his district," said Tony M. Pappas, a Dyson aide, "and they represent jobs to him and to the people of his district."