Defense contractor employees give the most money to Hillary Clinton

Clinton beats all of the Republicans, plus Bernie Sanders, in getting the defense industry’s financial help for her presidential campaign.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has collected more than any other candidate in the 2016 race from employees tied to the 50 largest contractors with the U.S. Department of Defense — at least $454,994 in campaign funds over a 14-month period ending in February.

That amount was roughly a third higher than the sum collected by Clinton’s opponent for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who, unlike Clinton, has called for steep cuts in defense spending.

After Sanders — who got $310,055 from defense-related workers — the presidential race’s third-leading recipient of defense contractor employee contributions was Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. He received a total of at least $307,995 from the beginning of 2015 through February 2016, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s review of Federal Election Commission data. Cruz has called for large increases in defense spending.

But over this period, employees of the top 50 contractors contributed only about half as much to the Republican presidential candidates still in the race — Cruz, Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — as they did to Clinton and Sanders — a total of at least $357,775 versus at least $765,049 for the two Democrats combined.

The disparity may seem unusual, since Republicans often depict themselves as more supportive of defense spending than their opponents, and historically, more defense-related contributions have gone to Republicans. But Trump, the Republican front-runner, is largely self-funding his campaign, a factor that probably influenced this outcome.

It’s also possible that donors at defense-related companies are betting that a Democrat — either Clinton or Sanders — is more likely to win the White House in the fall than any of the Republicans, which makes them a more useful investment target. The Democrat-targeted donations may also reflect the fact that the party’s highest elected official, President Barack Obama, has called for a $2.4 billion increase in defense spending for fiscal year 2017, and many Democratic lawmakers have said they support that request — even though polls show the public does not agree.

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