Homeland Security Lobbyists Score $130B in Contracts
And guess who's the lead lobbyist? Former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Gotta love fiscal Republicans:
Seven years ago there were nine companies with federal homeland security contracts. By 2003 it was 3,512. Now there are 33,890. The money is huge. Since 2000, $130bn of contracts have been dished out. By 2015 annual federal spending on the industry could be $170bn.
But state officials want in on the government handouts too. That is why Indiana ended up identifying 8,591 potential terrorism targets (including Lehman's farm) inside its Midwestern borders. But they went too far.
Indiana's total was the most of any state - twice as many as California and 30 per cent more than New York.
The reason is simple. With so much money on offer and such riches being made, there is a powerful economic incentive to exploit the threat to America. The homeland security industry has an army of lobbyists working for its interests in Washington. It grows bigger each year and they want to keep the money flowing. America is in the grip of a business based on fear.
Inside a fancy office block in downtown Washington DC lie the offices of the Ashcroft Group. It is six blocks from the imposing buildings of the Department of Justice where the head of the firm, John Ashcroft, used to be President George W. Bush's Attorney General. As Attorney General, Ashcroft controversially extended the surveillance powers of the state in order to fight terrorism. Now he lobbies and consults on behalf of technology companies seeking to capitalise on the new powers. His clients include firms such as ChoicePoint, which gathers data on individuals and sells it, and Innova, which makes software for surveillance drones and robots.
In turning from powerful official to powerful lobbyist, Ashcroft is a brazen example of what critics call Washington's 'revolving door' - a process whereby officials leave public service for the private sector, exploiting their old contacts for commerce. 'It's become the norm that senior officials open up their own shops in their old sectors. It can be incredibly lucrative for them,' said Alex Knott, project manager for Lobby Watch, part of the Centre for Public Integrity.