Stand With Drones?

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently drew attention when he joined his state’s junior senator, Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in hour 11 of his 13-hour talking filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to become director of the CIA, as Paul demanded an answer to whether the administration intended to use drones over American soil. Some conservatives criticized McConnell for taking as long as he did to join in the effort, and he appeared only after grassroots enthusiasm had begun to push establishment senators to "Stand with Rand."

McConnell, who some see as vulnerable to a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate, was more forthcoming with praise for Paul after his talking filibuster had drawn the support of grassroots conservative activists, going so far as to send out a fundraising email and petition based on the filibuster.

Some might wonder if McConnell’s ties to drone manufacturing companies might explain his early reticence to join Paul’s effort:

  • Over his career, McConnell has taken $15,000 from General Atomics, the manufacturer of the Predator drones that Paul repeatedly mentioned; $28,250 from Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the Hellfire missiles that Predator drones are equipped with; and $43,150 from Northrop Grumman, another major drone manufacturer.
  • All told, the defense aerospace industry has given a career total of $223,045 to McConnell’s campaign committees and leadership PAC, according to a Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
  • At least four of McConnell’s former staff members have gone through the revolving door to lobby for drone interests, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies, Ball Aerospace & Technologies, which creates imaging technology for drones, and Alenia North America, a subsidiary of Italian drone manufacturer Finmeccanica S.p.A.