A new defense appropriations bill includes several targeted spending provisions championed by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye that will benefit companies whose officers have contributed to his re-election campaigns.
The 2010 defense appropriations act signed into law Monday by President Barack Obama contains 34 earmarks sponsored or co-sponsored by the Hawaii Democrat worth almost $180 million.
Among them are provisions to spend federal money on health care for Hawaii military families, to repair the Pearl Harbor-docked USS Missouri and to finance a Boston-based institute named for deceased U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
Inouye is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its defense subcommittee, a position that gives him enormous sway over all federal spending, particularly at the Pentagon. He has won hundreds of earmarks over his 46 years in the Senate.
He often characterizes his spending provisions as beneficial to Hawaii's economy and military personnel.
"By providing for their needs, the civilian community benefits from the research, development and construction that takes place," he said in a statement.
Inouye and his staff have repeatedly refused to explain the justification behind earmarks slated for companies that have donated to his campaigns, or why the firms need taxpayer money to proceed with their projects.
Like virtually all earmarks, none of Inouye's were included in the Pentagon budget submitted by the White House earlier this year.
One of the senator's targeted spending provisions will provide $2.2 million to Honolulu-based Pacific Marine to finance a half-scale model of its Captive Air Amphibious Transport. Its subsidiary Navatek Ltd. led a team that included the vehicle in a 2007 Navy competition for a new generation of seaborne transports. But the Navy rejected the team's bid late that year.
The officers of Pacific Marine and Navatek have contributed $29,000 to Inouye since 1997, according to Federal Election Commission records. Steve Loui, Pacific Marine's chief executive officer, gave $9,800 of that.
Other firms that will benefit from Inouye-backed earmarks also have donated to his campaign. Those include $9 million total for two earmarks for Honolulu-based Oceanit, whose employees have contributed $22,900 since 1997, and a $3.9 million earmark to Referentia Systems Inc. of Honolulu, whose officers have donated $17,200.
Oceanit is developing a network of telescopes to track objects in space; Referentia is trying to create 3-D images of battlegrounds.
The legislation also contains spending provisions sponsored or co-sponsored by the other three members of Hawaii's congressional delegation, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka and Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono. All are Democrats.
Earmarks to Hawaii firms linked to Akaka include $4.5 million to Archinoetics LLC for a war fighter awareness system, $3.5 million to NovaSol for a reconnaissance system, and $2 million to Pukoa Scientific for a device that detects mobile targets.
Archinoetics employees have contributed $4,500 to Akaka's campaigns in recent years, according to federal records; NovaSol officers have given $6,000, and Pukoa employees have donated $6,100.
One Pukoa officer also gave $4,600 to Abercrombie, who co-sponsored its earmark with Akaka.
Abercrombie also teamed with Akaka to champion a $1.6 million earmark for Referentia Systems to evaluate corrosion-resistant coatings for military aircraft. Referentia employees have given the 10-term congressman $7,750 in campaign donations in recent years.
Of the two earmarks in the final spending measure that Hirono sponsored, one is slated for a private firm. It would direct $3.5 million for an algae-based biofuel project to a team led by General Atomics and including two Hawaii-based companies. Federal records show no contributions to Hirono's campaigns by the firms' employees.