Sunday, November 11, 2007

Boeing & the Culture Industry

The Boeing Company's relationship with Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) dates back at least to 2003 when Boeing helped sponsor major exhbitions of both Gerhard Richter and Andreas Gursky at the AIC and MCA (Boeing actually helping to facilitate the first significant cooperation between the two art institutions with these shows). ...More recently, Jeff Wall's retrospective exhibition at the AIC (June - September 2007) was sponsored, in part, by the Boeing Company.

Boeing & the Defense Industry

Aside from 747s, Boeing makes "smart" bombs, F-15 fighters, and Apache helicopters. Boeing has paid tens of millions in fines for selling flawed parts that led to thousands of unnecessary landings and at least one fatal crash and has been plagued by scandals connected to the company’s influence-peddling.

CEO: Jim McNerney
Military contracts 2005: $18.3 billion
Total contributions for the 2004 election cycle: $1,659,213*

America’s largest exporter, Boeing is also the Pentagon’s second largest contractor, eclipsed only by Lockheed Martin. Revenue from military goods now outstrips Boeing’s earnings from commercial sales by $5 billion a year.

The world's largest aerospace company has a role in all three of the Pentagon’s advanced fighter plane programs: the F-22 Raptor, the Joint Strike Fighter/F-35, and the F-18 and it makes both F-15 fighter and Apache helicopters. Caught knowingly selling flawed parts for the Apache that led to thousands of unnecessary landings and at least one fatal crash, Boeing has paid tens of millions of dollars in fines. Boeing also oversees many of the Pentagon’s missile defense programs, operates the Space Shuttle, makes the guidance systems for the Minuteman and Peacekeeper missiles and builds precision munitions such as the Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER), Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile (CALCM), Brimstone and Harpoon missiles, and JDAM "smart" bombs. Boeing’s JDAM (joint direct attack munitions) kit fits over a "dumb" missile and coverts it into a satellite-guided weapon using movable fins and a satellite positioning system to make a “smart” bomb. But there’s a downside: the precision JDAMs have repeatedly missed their targets in Iraq and Afghanistan, hitting both civilians and US soldiers.

The lobbying efforts of Boeing, and the revolving door between the US government and the Chicago-based giant, are legendary. But Boeing’s influence-peddling finally turned sour in December 2003 when Boeing CEO Philip M. Condit was forced to resign in the wake of revelations of that the company negotiated the hiring of top Air Force procurement official Darlene Druyun while Druyun was setting up a lucrative $27.6 billion leasing deal of Boeing’s 767 air-refueling aircrafts over a period of ten years. The deal, which went through despite controversy, will cost taxpayers up to $10 billion dollars more than if the Air Force has purchased the aircrafts outright.

But Boeing still has a lot of well-connected people looking out for its interests. John Shalikashvili, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is on the Boeing board. Former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Rudy de Leon heads up Boeing's Washington office. After September 11th Boeing beefed up its political connections by hiring former Senator Bennett Johnson (D-LA) and former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-NY). Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Boeing's senior vice president for international relations, uses his forty years of experience to generate business for Boeing with foreign governments and corporations. Richard Perle, former Chairman and current member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, is another important Boeing ally within the corridors of power. So it should come as no surprise that Boeing has provided Perle’s venture capital firm, Trireme Partners, with $20 million. Two other Defense Policy Board members also work as consultants for Boeing: the Air Force’s General Ronald Fogelman and former Navy Admiral David Jeremiah.

Boeing ranks number sixty six in the Center for Responsive Politics’ list of the 100 biggest political donors since 1989. Over the nineties, Boeing handed out $7.6 million in P Action Committee (PAC) and soft money contributions. During the 2002 election year, Boeing gave $909,134 in PAC contributions and $700,482 in soft money donations and its contributions added up to more than $1.5 million during the 2000 elections. Read more...


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