Monday, August 1, 2011

SpaceX Waits in the Lobby

A July 29 article by reports that SpaceX is increasing the amount of money it spends on lobbying politicians, but it's still a small fraction of what's spent by competitor United Launch Alliance.

[SpaceX founder Elon] Musk says the young crowd is having trouble also convincing the Pentagon they can provide high-quality launch vehicles at lower costs than the industry’s standard-bearers, and he's pointing the finger at the Obama administration.

“People think Obama is my best friend. If he has been my best friend, he sure hasn’t been very good at helping me out,” Musk said in an interview. “Obama has been doing a good job within the scope of what he can do . . . but not pushing further. And Congress has done quite a bad job."

The article reports, "During the 2010 election cycle, the SpaceX PAC donated $67,900 to federal candidates, with nearly $4 going to Democrats for every $1 going to Republicans. In contrast, Boeing’s PAC made more than $2.2 million in candidate contributions during the 2010 cycle."

Do the math ... Boeing's PAC spent about 32 times more than SpaceX PAC did in the 2010 election cycle. And that doesn't include Lockheed-Martin, Boeing's partner in United Launch Alliance.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are aggressively defending their long-standing business, with Boeing having spent at least $7 million every year since 2000 on federal lobbying efforts and Lockheed Martin spending at least $6 million. Their joint venture, United Launch Alliance, has spent an additional $120,000 annually since 2008. Both companies employ multiple former members of Congress on their federal lobbying rosters, which include dozens of lobbyists.

As for Orbital Sciences, the other player in commercial cargo, their lobbying dollars "have fluctuated over the years from less than $100,000 as recently as 2007 to a high of nearly $400,000 in 2008."

The article notes that the Air Force is reluctant to switch to unproven launchers due to the very expensive and sensitive satellites they fly.

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