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US and Boeing have long maintained a special relationship

As the top economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, Dorothy Robyn was charged with driving the American aerospace industry forward.

Part of the job was not choosing sides between companies. However, there was one exception: Boeing.

"It was the only company I could be an outspoken lawyer for," said Robyn on Thursday. In competitions between American companies, the administration remained neutral in the rule. However, Boeing's commercial aircraft division employed tens of thousands of Americans, and Airbus, the main competitor, was in Europe.

"In the engine business you can not choose between GE and Pratt & Whitney. That's it with Boeing. They're ours. It is the only sector in which we have in fact a national champion and you can stand up for it. "

For the 102-year history of Boeing, which dates to the beginning of the First World War, the company and the country rely on each other, together created hundreds of thousands of jobs, the United States equipped with top military aircraft and aircraft worldwide supplies the growth of passenger air traffic and to increase US exports.

Now that Boeing and the US regulators have been criticized for their slow response to the crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 jet in Ethiopia, the blended interests of Boeing and the US government are facing a new test.

There is much to consider.

US presidents have been supporting the company's interests for decades, and have done so over the past 30 years, flying mainly with the two Boeing VC-25As serving as Air Force One, if the president owns them.

President Barack Obama hired members of Boeing's board of directors as his chief of staff and commercial secretary. He vigorously defended the Federal Export-Import Bank, which had subsidized so many aviation sales to foreign airlines by issuing guarantees that conservative critics had mocked as "Boeing's Bank".

"I have to say, given the number of planes I have sold all over the world, I expect a gold watch after my departure," Obama said in a 2012 Boeing plant.

President Trump seemed to have a bumpy start with the company. criticize Boeing's Air Force One contract before taking office Boeing boss Dennis Muilenburg, while praising Trump's "business headset", pledged to keep costs down and won the president's favor. Later, Trump took the unusual step of allowing Muilenburg to make a phone call to an Air Force general who led the Pentagon's largest weapons program. In December Trump appointed after the resignation of Jim Mattis a former Boeing boss Patrick M. Shanahan as Deputy Minister of Defense.

President Barack Obama speaks at a 2012 Boeing plant in Everett, Washington. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

Trump's policy, including encouraging a sharp rise in US exports and increasing military spending, has been beneficial to Boeing, with the stock price almost tripling since he took office, before giving in during last week's crisis.

Boeing was one of the top companies to spend money last year, influencing US government decision-making. The Chicago-based aerospace corporation has spent $ 15.1 million on federal lobbying and employs around 100 lobbyists on its behalf.

In addition, the Boeing Political Action Committee has donated $ 2.4 million to political candidates between 2017 and 2018, the eighth largest in the country, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The recipients included 329 current members of the Congress.

Recent years have been particularly good for the company's bottom line. Boeing has booked a record Turnover in 2018 was $ 101.1 billion, up 13 percent from a year ago, and analysts say a quarter of that came from government contracts. In 2017, Boeing received an estimated $ 23.3 billion from taxpayer-funded clients without classified military assets. The joint ventures with Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter Textron each received $ 2.2 billion in 2017 and $ 2.5 billion in contract finance.

The company's stock reached an all-time high of $ 446 a share this month before declining one week ago after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines' 302 flight. It closed at just under $ 379 per share on Friday.

Daniel Auble, a senior researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, described Boeing as "a prime example" of the "inappropriate influence of money in our political system."

In response to questions about the company's lobbying and campaign spending, Boeing made a statement defending his practices.

"As the largest exporter in the US and a leading manufacturer of aerospace and aerospace products to the retail and defense sectors, there are a number of major political issues at federal, state and local levels that impact our business, diverse workforce and supply chain can have . Our team is focused on sharing Boeing's story and supporting policies that drive the aviation industry and US manufacturing in the communities where we live and work. "

The growth of Boeing has clearly benefited the United States. Boeing continues to rank among the country's top manufacturers and employs an estimated 153,027 people in the US. At a time when Trump has made domestic production a political and political priority. Boeing serves as one of the largest exporters in the country.

"Whenever the government wants to improve exports, you will generally find that Boeing is heavily involved in the initiative they are implementing," said Andrew Hunter, an armaments industry expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "That was true in the Obama administration and in the Trump administration."

Hunter said that in some cases the government benefits from close relationships with private companies, for example when agencies work with private sector scientists to develop new technologies.

"The obvious risk is that if a government agency works closely with a company over a long period of time, it is feared that it might affect its independence," Hunter said.

Robyn, the former Clinton consultant, said she was "Ms. Boeing" in the White House for intervening on a range of corporate issues, from titanium imports to machinist unions, and said that the focus was on Clinton herself.

"If the Economist wrote an article on the Boeing Airbus competition, he would stress that and pass it on to my boss. , , . "" She said, "He was through and through, and it was all about Jobs."

US Transportation officials are still pushing for details as to why the jet of the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed by Ethiopian Airways. The Congress demands answers to the Federal Aviation Administration's oversight over Boeing, especially after the FAA did not land its planes faster, but waited for regulators in Europe, China, Australia and elsewhere to do so.

Muilenburg spoke with Trump twice a week after the crash of Ethiopia to convince him of the safety of the planes, and there was concern that the company may have an inappropriate impact on security issues. Larry Kudlow, director of Trump's National Economic Council, said her conversation should not be misunderstood.

Regarding C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program, Kudlow said Trump had sent a stern message to Muilenburg, and the decision to land the planes "has nothing to do with us from a commercial point of view." And it has everything to do with safety considerations. "

Reigning FAA Administrator Daniel K. Elwell at Friday's "Today" show defended the speed with which the US regulators turned off the plane, saying that they were confident that a link between one would come only after receiving additional information Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October, which included a Boeing 737 Max, and the Ethiopian Airways crash of 10 March was "close enough".

"You have to have more than just the feeling that two crashes have to do with each other before you ground a whole fleet," he said.

Deaths in the US due to aircraft accidents are still extremely rare. In a speech at an aviation safety forum last year, Elwell pointed out that the country has passed more than nine years or about 90 million flights without fatalities.

In response to questions about the Agency's relationship with Boeing, the FAA made a statement in which it credited the "currently excellent safety record".

"The approach we have used over the years is the same approach that helped us a lot. Safety is and remains our top priority. "

Randy Babbitt, who led the FAA under Obama from 2009 to 2011, agreed. "In the past, plane crashes were almost routine. It was like hearing about a car accident, "he said. "The reason why so much attention has been paid to recent crashes is proof of how safe the system is."

Boeing has long been a reliable aircraft supplier to the US military and built nearly 100,000 World War II aircraft. In recent years, Boeing has pursued a wider range of military contracts, but not without controversy.

Boeing secured several major defense contracts in the fall. This meant a reversal after losing the competitions for the F-35 fighter and the B-21 bomber against Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman respectively.

Boeing would also be the beneficiary of more than $ 1 billion that the Pentagon called for in Trump's budget proposal in 2020 for the purchase of eight F-15X fighter jets. Air Force officials said they were against spending and said the money would be better spent on the purchase of Lockheed Martin to buy more F-35 fighters, which, unlike the F-15X, are equipped for advanced air defense mechanisms ,

There are signs of concern about carelessness in the company, which has now become the second largest defense company in terms of federal sales, and whether the company meets its obligations to the military.

On Friday, Air Force Deputy Secretary Will Roper, a sub-committee of House Armed Services, reported that he had visited Boeing last week after the Air Force was left with the amount of trash, tools and other items left in new condition , was alerted KC-46 tanker aircraft, which Boeing delivered.

Boeing began delivering tankers in January, two years later and about $ 3 billion above budget. Foreign objects can be sucked in by the engines of an aircraft and damage or destroy them.

"To be frank, that is unacceptable," Roper told the legislature. "FOD or foreign bodies are something we take very seriously in the Luftwaffe. Our airlines are immaculate. Our depots are immaculate because wreckage is a security risk. "

Roper said he and other service staff had reviewed Boeing's correction plan and were satisfied with it. Boeing made a statement: "Safety and quality are our highest priority. We strive to deliver FOD-free aircraft to our customers and have an agreed action plan for the future. "

Shanahan, who has virtually no government experience, has withdrawn from Boeing issues. Pentagon officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The close relationship between the Pentagon and Boeing is part of a long-standing revolving door culture in which senior defense officials move between government jobs and defense companies.

In 2004, Kreden Druyun, a high-ranking Air Force Procurement Officer, was sentenced to prison after she admitted that she had approved 100 Boeing tankers at an inflated price of about $ 20 billion to improve her job prospects in the company. She also reviewed a competitor's price information and helped Boeing receive $ 4 billion as a thank-you for hiring her daughter and future son-in-law.

Druyun pleaded guilty to the allegations and admitted that Boeing had received special treatment. However, judicial records show that Boeing executives also played a role in promoting employment talks after Druyun proposed to wait. Boeing commissioned its own review of the scandal and found flaws in hiring former government employees.

In 2016, Boeing employed 84 former Defense Department officials as senior executives, board members or lobbyists, according to a report from last year's Project on Government Oversight. These were the 55 that Boeing competitor Lockheed Martin had on his staff.

The author of the report, Mandy Smithberger, said the revolving door raises the question of whether US officials, including the regulators, are reluctant to turn down Boeing because they are afraid of offending their prospects when they leave public service ,

"The question is whether they will prevail to protect their potential employment in the company when they leave the government," she said.

Despite the current unrest over the possible failure of Boeing in relation to the 737 Max, Trump has largely joined its predecessors to become a leading seller of the company.

Speaking to investors in 2017, Muilenburg said of the company's relationship with the president: "We were privileged to have a very open dialogue on business issues with him."

Six months ago, when he spoke at a South Boeing plant in South Carolina in 2017, Trump ended his remarks with, "God bless you, may God bless the United States of America, and God bless Boeing."

Damian Paletta, Christian Davenport, Karoun Demirjian and Aaron Gregg contributed to this report.



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