At the Democratic debate on 14 April 2016, Hillary Clinton said that “e need a president who will stand up against the gun lobby.” However, Secretary of State Clinton effectively stood with the gun lobby as she approved millions in revenue for two huge gunpowder mills. Since then she has received payments from numerous ammunition industry stakeholders, including over $160,000 in contributions from her campaign chair’s brother, ammo lobbyist Anthony Podesta.
While Clinton has been connected to the gunmakers that make the assault rifles used in American massacres and an NRA lobbyist, less attention has been paid to her ties to ammunition manufacturers that also play a central role in the gun lobby. In the financial years ending in 2010 and 2011, Secretary Clinton approved sales of ammunition worth upwards of $345 million. The approvals included those for a gunpowder giant that Clinton is especially close to.
Clinton approved sales for NRA-allied ammunition suppliers. Pentagon reports show that in the two years ending June 2011, Clinton approved more than $144 million in gun and ammunition sales for General Dynamics (GD) as well as $34 million in ammunition sales for GD’s gunpowder client, Winchester. Though GD does not itself sell ammunition directly to the retail market, their St Mark’s Powder mill is a major wholesale supplier of gunpowder for domestic commercial ammo brands like Challenger, Samson, Ramshot, Blazer, Hodgdon and Winchester. General Dynamics gunpowders include formulation 748, “the powder of choice for 223 Remington ammunition.” Remington 223 ammunition is used in AR-15 assault rifles, the type of guns that were used in both the Sandy Hook and San Bernardino massacres. Winchester sells ammunition to American consumers and is a strong supporter of the gun lobby. Winchester has close ties with the National Rifle Association specifically, co-sponsoring a shooting education program with the NRA.
Clinton took campaign funds from ammo lobbyists. Since approving the sales, the Clinton campaign has benefited from her ties to General Dynamics through her campaign chair. Campaign chair John Podesta co-founded super-lobbying firm The Podesta Group with brother Anthony Podesta, the Group’s Chairman. One of the Group’s clients is gunpowder giant GD, which have paid the Group over $3.1 million since 2007, including $120,000 in 2015, engaging 15 Podesta Group lobbyists. Anthony Podesta has bundled $166,460 in contributions for the Clinton presidential campaign. In other words, the Clinton campaign has taken money from the lobbying firm of a major gunpowder maker, one that provides powder for commercial ammo sales by NRA allies like Winchester.
Clinton was paid by the ammo companies’ owners. In addition to receiving contributions from a gunpowder lobbyist, Clinton received a variety of payments from the shareholders of gunpowder and ammunition companies. Institutional investors The Vanguard Group and the BlackRock fund hold nearly 6% and nearly 3% of General Dynamics shares respectively. Vanguard and BlackRock also hold over 7% and 6% of shares respectively in the parent company of Winchester. Vanguard has paid Clinton $400,000 in speaking fees, while BlackRock has contributed $22,060 to Clinton’s campaigns since 1999.
Clinton’s Foundation took donations from ammo buyers. Clinton is also connected to the ammunition sales through her friends and donors. Clinton-approved GD customers included the regime of Clinton’s family friend, dictator Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who bought $11 million of GD ammo in the year leading up to the Arab Spring democracy protests. Clinton benefactor the United Arab Emirates bought $44 million of GD grenades and accessories after donating upwards of $1 million to her Foundation.
Clinton’s ammo ties go beyond General Dynamics. Clinton also approved upwards of $166 million in sales for another ammunition giant, Alliant Techsystems (now Vista Outdoor). Vista Outdoor is an NRA ally, listing the NRA as one of their social responsibility beneficiaries and proclaims their CEO as “a lifetime member of the NRA.” The single largest shareholder of Vista Outdoor is Goldman Sachs, a bank that paid Clinton $675,000 for three speeches. A third ammunition giant that benefited from (non-ammo) weapons sales approvals by Clinton is BAE Systems, a firm that has paid the Podesta Group $3.2 million since 2008. BAE Systems runs the Radford gunpowder mill in Virginia that is “the sole U.S. producer of nitrocellulose, the feedstock for ammunition” and is thus a key part of the gun industry.
Clinton claims that she is the best candidate to fight the gun lobby. However, her ammunition industry sales approvals and funding sources create multifarious conflicts of interest that place her only three steps away from some of the gun lobby’s richest and strongest allies. Indeed, since General Dynamics and Vista Outdoor make much of the gunpowder used in AR-15 ammunition, Clinton’s finances are only five steps away from mass killers like those responsible for the Sandy Hook and San Bernardino massacres.
The numbers for Clinton’s ammunition sales shown above are minimums, since (1) the Pentagon is only required to report to Congress ‘major’ weapons sales valued above $2 million and (2) reports are not available for FY12 and FY13, the last two years that Clinton was Secretary of State. More information about the State department’s key role in global weapons sales is available here and here.
This piece was originally published on https://medium.com/@JeanetteJing/clinton-approved-sales-for-ammunition-giants-then-took-money-from-their-lobbyists-and-investors-375b7f74f0b4#.xdlsd5p77.