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Defense Firms Put Money on a Harman Win : Politics: Campaign finance reports show the aerospace industry overwhelming backing the incumbent and shunning GOP rival Susan Brooks.

November 03, 1994|TED JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Aerospace and defense companies have overwhelmingly backed Rep. Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills) and have virtually shunned her Republican rival, Rancho Palos Verdes Councilwoman Susan Brooks, according to a study of contributions to both campaigns.

Harman has received $64,900 from employees at aerospace and defense firms and another $71,200 from their political action committees, according to a Times study of contributions from 1993 to Oct. 19. Brooks, meanwhile, has received $3,400 from aerospace employees and no PAC contributions.

The figures come from campaign disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission since Jan. 1, 1993. They include only PAC money and individual contributions of more than $200. Over that period, Harman itemized $523,500 in individual contributions to Brooks' $179,000. Harman also listed $448,000 in PAC money, compared to $61,100 for Brooks.

Not included in the figures are individuals who listed themselves as retired or homemakers, although they could be the spouses or family members of aerospace and defense workers.

In addition, Harman has been adept at raising money from law firms, including $62,200 from individuals and $20,500 from PACs. A large portion came from Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, the Washington law firm where she was a corporate attorney.

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Harman also received contributions from entertainment industry sources, including $43,700 in individual contributions and $13,000 from PACs. Her supporters include entertainer Barbra Streisand, "Happy Days" star Henry Winkler and super-agent Mike Ovitz. She received almost $10,000 from a PAC and individuals at Walt Disney Co., including Chairman Michael Eisner.

Brooks drew on financial institutions, such as banks, stockbrokers and investors, who gave her $23,600 in individual contributions and $6,600 in PAC money. Also high on the list were real estate developers and construction companies.

But the near-unanimous backing of Harman at aerospace firms has been a source of frustration for Brooks. Harman in part has been helped by her position on the House Armed Services Committee, according to Common Cause, a public interest research group.

It is not unusual for members of Armed Services Committees to get substantial contributions from defense contractors, said Ruth Holton, Common Cause's California director.

And even though aerospace executives traditionally are cut from Republican cloth, political analysts say that it is typical for major contributors to support incumbents financially.

Company executives "think Jane Harman will probably win, and they are afraid that if they give money to Susan Brooks, they will anger Jane Harman, and she won't be as willing to go to bat for them," said Ben Sheffner, a political analyst for the Cook Political Report in Washington. "It's typical of the situation across the country. (Corporate PACs) want to do what is safest, and the safest thing to do is to give to an incumbent."

It is illegal for any company to contribute directly to a candidate's campaign, but employees can make donations on their own or through a company political action committee.

Officials of Hughes Aircraft Co., where individual employees and a political action committee have given Harman $20,600, say that Harman has garnered support because she has pushed for aerospace conversion projects and lobbied Clinton administration officials to lift restrictions on the sale of commercial satellites to China. Some of those trade barriers have been eased.

"She prepared legislation to lift the sanctions and permit the sale of satellites," said Hughes spokesman Rand Christensen. "We feel that she has represented us well."

Brooks' campaign, however, has questioned Harman's acceptance of corporate PAC money in the first place.

In a 1992 campaign flyer, Harman said she "will refuse campaign contributions from special-interest PACs that have business before her committees in Congress."

"A lot of the aerospace money that she has got are (from) companies that have business before her committees," Brooks' campaign manager, John Perkins, said. "She has broken a pledge she made (in the flyer) two years ago."

Not so, Harman said last week.

"I'm sure I could have stated it more carefully; hindsight is always better," Harman said. "But what I intended to say was, 'I will not accept contributions from PACs that come before my committees that have no connections to my district.' But if constituents want to contribute, and they happen to work for Rockwell or someplace, I think it is totally appropriate to accept their support."

Even so, Brooks' campaign says she has won the support of rank and file aerospace employees, whose contributions are not itemized.

Harman's campaign also says she gets support from workers, including labor union PACs.

In recent weeks, Brooks has tried to give presentations at Hughes, TRW Inc. and Northrop Grumman Corp.--three of the South Bay's largest aerospace firms--only to be rejected by the companies, Perkins said.

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