Friday, January 20, 2023

What can be learned from the legacy of Amilcar Cabral?

Tell no lies. (…) Claim no easy victories

(Amilcar Cabral, 1965) Cabral


If there was ever such a thing as a practical philosopher, then Amílcar Cabral would have stood as one of the first of such kind. Amílcar Cabral, born in 1924 in Cape Verde and assassinated in 1973, is remembered first and foremost as the leader of the liberation wars in Cape Verde and Guiné Bissau. A brilliant strategist, diplomat and guerrilla tactician, Amílcar Cabral was further notable for his profoundly humane and uniquely independent political vision.  Though frequently approached as a thinker through his published speeches, it is difficult to assemble a picture of Cabral’s thought with no reference to his life, and the gestures with which he filled it (c.f. Chabal, 1983).


Born in Guiné-Bissau and raised in Cape Verde, Cabral’s childhood was marked by both a love of learning and the witnessing of colonial injustices, in particular during the 1940s drought and famine (c.f. Villen 2013). In 1945, earning one of very few scholarships of its kind, Cabral secured a place to learn agronomy in Lisbon. The next seven years in the ‘Metropolis’ would be highly significant for Cabral in that it would provide access to the writings of pan-Africanist cultural/political movements; as well as with connections with fellow lusophone African students (e.g. Mario de Andrade, Marcelino dos Santos, Agostinho Neto). It would be during these years, and under the guise of the ‘Centre for African Studies’ in Lisbon, that all important bonds would be forged between key figures of the liberation struggles in Angola and Mozambique. Deeply impressed by Leopold Senghor’s and Aimé Cesaire’s Négritude as well as by Nkrumah’s political visions, Cabral’s emphasis on the need for re-Africanisation had its root at this time (see Rabaka, 2015). Parallel to this influence, Cabral would also be introduced to Marxist ideas, ideas he would use during the liberation struggles in a strongly pragmatic, creative and anti-dogmatic way. Lastly, but also significantly, Cabral’s seven years in Portugal made him deeply sensitive in his position towards Portuguese people. Retaining a position of open-heartedness and kindness to what he saw as misguided people, Cabral quickly identified Portuguese fascism and its renewed imperialist discourse as the greatest source of immediate political evil.


Returning to Guiné-Bissau in 1952, Cabral was engaged by the colonial Forestry and Agricultural civil service. In this role he would conduct a comprehensive census of the country, awarding him with a deep engagement with the social, environmental and economic conditions of Guiné. At this time, Cabral also began his political work mobilizing local populations to demand for a better status. This was soon noticed and culminated in the Colonial Governor asking for him to be ‘transferred’. Unwittingly, this would lead Cabral to further radicalise his struggles. Returning to Lisbon, Cabral found work, which, for five years, would send him on long missions in Angola. In these missions, Cabral would quickly tap into the underground networks agitating for liberation. Involved simultaneously in the underground anti-colonial networks in Lisbon, Cabral would in 1955 participate in the Bandung Conference. This participation, though poorly documented, is crucial to understanding Cabral’s emphasis on diplomatic mobilization as part of decolonial struggles. This mobilization was both in terms of coordinating and uniting anti-imperial struggles as well as mustering international legitimation and support. In Cabral’s own life, this was born out in uniting Lusophone African struggles under a common front as well as by tirelessly working on garnering diplomatic and popular support for Guinea’s liberation war (c.f. Gliejeses 1997, Dadha 1995).


Galvanized by the international momentum against (neo)colonialism, Cabral would, in 1956, establish the African Party for the Independence of Guiné and Cabo Verde (PAIGC). Having spent the first years doing political work in Guiné’s cities, PAIGC would after 1959 focus its efforts on the countryside. By 1963, PAIGC began its armed guerrilla insurgency and within ten years achieved control over most of Guiné’s territory and declared independence. Supremely successful in terms of guerrilla warfare, Guiné’s liberation was in no small part due to Cabral’s leadership and foresight into grassroots politics, diplomacy and livelihood improvement. Most significantly, in Cabral’s life, insurgency emerged as the most fertile site for theory. Drawing on practical problems in the politics and logistics of insurgency, Cabral regarded insurgency as the key context in which to conceive and form an African nationalism that would succeed in overcoming colonial legacies. In Cabral’s thought, national liberation relied on a unique process of cultural renovation, whereby military struggle would be actively subsumed under a deeper form of struggle towards the re-signification of local non-European cultures and the formation of social forms shorn of colonial subconscious.  Indeed, such was Cabral’s insistence on this, that Paulo Freire saw his pedagogical attitudes as uniquely inspiring (c.f. Pereira and Vittoria, 2012).


A man of action more than words, Cabral’s theories seem to be still fully understandable by reference to the extraordinary events of the liberation insurgency of Guiné-Bissau. Assassinated in 1973, before the fall of Portuguese fascism and colonialism, Cabral’s death left a tragic absence, a foreclosure, in the construction of independence in lusophone Africa.  Remembered as a moral paragon and political giant in the African liberation wars, Cabral continues to lack the scholarly appreciation his life and work deserves. Engaging with Cabral, however, remains a worthy, necessary and empowering project. In his poetry, in his speeches, in his party archives and in the oral memories of his life, Cabral offers a uniquely visionary and sensitive approach to the historical task of decolonisation. Living beyond the grave, Cabral’s incisive, humane, and pragmatic voice may well continue to teach us – if only we listen.


Amílcar Cabral’s recorded speeches can be viewed herehere, and here.




What was Cabral’s understanding of culture in the context of decolonial struggles?


What lessons can be taken from Cabral’s way of theorizing?




Cabral, Amilcar. Resistance and Decolonization. Translated by Dan Wood. Rowman & Littlefield International, 2016.

Cabral, Amilcar. Unity and Struggle: Speeches and Writings of Amilcar Cabral. (preview) Monthly Review Press, 1979.

Cabral, Amilcar. Return to the Source: Selected Speeches of Amilcar Cabral (pdf) Monthly Review Press, 1973.

Casa Comum’s Digital Archive



Sousa, J. S. Amílcar Cabral (1924-1973): Vida e morte de um revolucionário africano. Lisboa: Nova Vega, 2013.

Chabal, P.  Amilcar Cabral: Revolutionary Leadership and People’s War. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Davidson, B. No Fist Is Big Enough to Hide the Sky: The Liberation of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde: Aspects of an African Revolution. Zed Books. 1981.

Mario de Andrade, Amilcar Cabral : essai de biographie politique, F. Maspero, Paris, 1980.

Villen, P. A crítica de Amílcar Cabral ao colonialismo: Entre a harmonia e a contradição. São Paulo: Expressão Popular. 2013.

Manji, F. & Fletcher B. (Eds) Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral, Codesria. 2013

Rabaka, R. Concepts of Cabralism: Amilcar Cabral and Africana Critical Theory. Lexington Books. 2014

Gleijeses, P. ‘The First Ambassadors: Cuba’s Contribution to Guinea-Bissau’s War of Independence’ , Journal of Latin American Studies, 29:1, 45-88. 1977

Dhada, M. ‘Guinea-Bissau’s Diplomacy and Liberation Struggle’ Portuguese Studies Review, 4:1, 20-36. 1995

Pereira, A. A., & Vittoria, P. The liberation struggle and the experiences of literacy in Guinea-Bissau: Amilcar Cabral and Paulo Freire. Estudos Históricos (Rio de Janeiro), 25(50), 291-311. 2012

Abdullah, I. ‘Culture, consciousness and armed conflict: Cabral’s déclassé/(lumpenproletariat?) in the era of globalization’, African Identities, 4:1, 99-112. 2006.


Additional Video Sources:


Cabralista’ Documentary Series (2011-). see here

BBC Four section on Cabral’s African War, see here


By António Ferraz de Oliveira

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

‘The most dangerous Negro’: 3 essential reads on the FBI’s assessment of MLK’s radical views and allies

Howard Manly, The Conversation  January 13th 2023

Left out of GOP debates about “the weaponization” of the federal government is the use of the FBI to spy on civil rights leaders for most of the 20th century.

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the targets.

As secret FBI documents became declassified, The Conversation U.S. published several articles looking at the details that emerged about King’s personal life and how he was considered in 1963 by the FBI as “the most dangerous Negro.”

1. The radicalism of MLK

As a historian of religion and civil rights, University of Colorado Colorado Springs Professor Paul Harvey writes that while King has come to be revered as a hero who led a nonviolent struggle to build a color blind society, the true radicalism of MLK’s beliefs remain underappreciated.

“The civil saint portrayed nowadays was,” Harvey writes, “by the end of his life, a social and economic radical, who argued forcefully for the necessity of economic justice in the pursuit of racial equality.”

2. The threat of being called a communist

Jason Miller, a North Carolina State University English professor, details the delicate balance that King was forced to strike between some of his radical allies and the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

As the leading figure in the civil rights movement, Miller explains, King could not be perceived as a communist in order to maintain his national popularity.

As a result, King did not overtly invoke the name of one of the Harlem Renaissance’s leading poets, Langston Hughes, a man the FBI suspected of being a communist sympathizer.

But Miller’s research reveals the shrewdness with which King still managed to use Hughes’ poetry in his speeches and sermons, most notably in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech which echoes Hughes’ poem “I Dream a World.”

“By channeling Hughes’ voice, King was able to elevate the subversive words of a poet that the powerful thought they had silenced,” Miller writes.

3. ‘We must mark him now’

As a historian who has done substantial research regarding FBI files on the Black freedom movement, UCLA labor studies lecturer Trevor Griffey points out that from 1910 to the 1970s, the FBI treated civil rights activists as either disloyal “subversives” or “dupes” of foreign agents.

Screenshot from a 1966 FBI memo regarding the surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. National Archives via Trevor Griffey photo

As King ascended in prominence in the late 1950s and 1960s, it was inevitable that the FBI would investigate him.

In fact, two days after King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, William Sullivan, the FBI’s director of intelligence, wrote: “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.”

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Howard Manly, Race + Equity Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba Is One of the Most Important Assassinations of the 20th Century’

Janine Jackson interviewed Maurice Carney about the assassination of Patrice Lumumba for the January 21, 2022, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.



Twitter: Today, the FBI honors the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Twitter (1/20/20)

Janine Jackson: We saw a good amount of media attention to Reverend Martin Luther King this past week, including, yes, the FBI pretending with a straight face that they are honoring his legacy. But also some acknowledgement of a point that we at FAIR make, that celebration of King today is often a whitewashing, avoiding discussion of many of his actual views, and that the news media who are so full of bromides for King in his death were working hard at attacking and undermining him while he lived.

Meanwhile, another anniversary that offered opportunity for reflection was utterly overlooked. January 17 marked 60 years since the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first elected prime minister of the post-independence Democratic Republic of the Congo, a crime in which the US played a significant role.

In August of 1960, CIA Director Allen Dulles told the agency’s station in Congo that: 

"it is the clear-cut conclusion that if Lumumba continues to hold high office, the inevitable result will at best be chaos, and at worst pave the way to Communist takeover of the Congo, with disastrous consequences for the prestige of the UN and for the interests of the free world generally. Consequently, we conclude that his removal must be an urgent and prime objective."

As corporate media bang the drums for a new or continued cold war in Africa today, the story of Lumumba seems especially significant. But telling it openly would require a dry-eyed examination of US actions and intentions that corporate news media are just not in the business of providing.

We’re joined now by Maurice Carney, co-founder and executive director of the group Friends of the Congo. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Maurice Carney.

Maurice Carney: It’s a pleasure to be back with you, Janine.

Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba

JJ: May I just ask you to talk a bit about January 1961, and the context for the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. The country is newly independent, but still in transition. Why was Lumumba considered such a danger?

MC: Lumumba was considered a danger for several reasons. One, he was a nationalist and a pan-Africanist. And as he articulated in his June 30, 1960, inaugural speech, he wanted the resources of the Congo to benefit the Congolese people. Anyone familiar with the creation of the Congo—it was created by European nations, it was created as an outpost for the extraction of natural resources to benefit Europe and the West. And Lumumba represented an end to that system. So that’s one reason.

Secondly, he was uncompromising in his critique of the colonial history in the Congo, and really contemporary imperialism. He was an anti-colonial fighter. So that also represented a problem.

And so those two reasons, and the critique that he brought against colonialism and imperialism, the uncompromising self-sufficiency, self-determination and pan-Africanism that he articulated, indicated that he was someone that couldn’t necessarily be controlled or owned or readily influenced by the West. So that posed a huge problem for the United States, and European powers as well.

JJ: I think the failure to even talk about the assassination today reflects in some ways just how important and how dangerous Lumumba was judged, so much so that we can’t even explore it now. But his murder was important and inspired action.

MC: Yeah, in fact, Professor Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja argued that the assassination of Patrice Lumumba is one of the most important assassinations of the 20th century. Professor Nzongola is now ambassador to the United Nations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has written a book entitled Lumumba. So he articulated  the significance of Lumumba’s assassination.

Maurice Carney

Maurice Carney: “We see the centrality of Lumumba to not only post-independence Congo, but a post-independence Africa.”

And, in fact, even the chief of station of the CIA in the Congo, Larry Devlin, in a book with the same title, Chief of Station Congo, laid out how critical Lumumba was, not only to the Congo, Janine, but to Africa at large. That is to say, Devlin shared and he intimated that we had to get rid of Lumumba because not only would we have lost the Congo if Lumumba were to stay and remain in power, but we would have lost all of Africa. So we see the centrality of Lumumba to not only post-independence Congo, but a post-independence Africa.

And the president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, articulated that and concurred with that. Within his book, The Challenge of the Congo, he shared how Congo would ultimately serve as the capital of Nkrumah’s project, the pan-African project, of the United States of Africa. So Congo, which is located in the heart of the African continent, arguably one of the richest countries on the planet in terms of natural resources, strategically located on the African continent, was vital to Nkrumah’s pan-African project. So it was a very critical country. And Lumumba was a pan-Africanist who accepted and acknowledged the role the Congo would play in a self-determined, independent Africa.

JJ: You and I talked at one point about how US officials were saying—and this is just a few years ago—US officials were saying and media were parroting the statement Congo hasn’t had a peaceful transfer of power since 1960, without even pretending to explore why that is and what the US role has been in that.

MC: Right.

JJ: And I just wonder if you could address the role of news media here in—I mean, it’s mainly what they haven’t done with regard to this, or what they have done, I don’t know.

MC: I think when we had a discussion that was around the role that—if I’m not mistaken, I think it may have been Time magazine—had played at the time in planting stories that were fed to them by the Central Intelligence Agency, in presenting Lumumba in a disparaging fashion, basically working hand in glove with US foreign policy in destabilizing the Congo. So the media, it was through its vocal means—and at the time of Lumumba, they did play a destructive role—and today through its silence.

We know, based on declassified documents that were recently published by the US State Department, that the United States played a critical role in the destabilization of the Congo, not only during the time of Lumumba, but right up until today. These classified documents from the State Department say that at the time, the covert action in the Congo was the largest in the world by the United States government. And that for the first 10 years or so of Congo’s independence, the Central Intelligence Agency had a role to play in who would lead the Congo. As you know, it went through several leaders. And, of course, the leader that wound up taking control of the country, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu in 1965, was installed, backed and maintained by the United States.

So to the extent that we see instability in the Congo, that we see corruption, that we see a lack of security, the role the United States played in uprooting the native democratic process that began in that country with the election of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, that role by the United States is central. And it’s something that, unfortunately, today’s media has not taken up and articulated and shared with the American public in the way that it ought to and that it should.

JJ: Finally, right now Patrice Lumumba’s family is fighting for the return of his remains, such as they are. Listeners may not know his body was dissolved in sulfuric acid. But the demands go beyond that important repatriation. If we heard the voice of the Congolese people, not just Lumumba’s family, but if we could hear the voice of Congolese people today, what would they be saying that we’re not hearing?

MC: We at Friends of the Congo honored the daughter of Lumumba, Jr. at Congo Week event, Juliana Lumumba, who has led the fight to have her father’s remains repatriated to the country. And in her acknowledgement speech, she had a message for the Congolese youth. That is, to continue the teachings, the ideas of Lumumba, to look at him as a model and example of sacrificing his life for a country and a continent.

And Congolese youth today embrace that sentiment, particularly through their music. There are a number of Congolese musicians, hip hop artists who bring Lumumba’s ideas and teachings to the current generation of Congolese. So they are actually embracing Lumumba’s ideas. They’re embracing Lumumba’s teachings, the ideas of self-sufficiency, self-determination, pan-Africanism. The Congolese youth have taken that up today, and they’re sharing it with the current generation, and they’re doing it through music, through art, through writing.

So he is, especially in light of the lack of strong leadership, not only in the Congo but throughout the African continent, Lumumba is being fully embraced, fully shared, and being held up as a model for future leaders. So he’s in good stead.

And we acknowledge Lumumba ourselves through our campaign that’s on Lumumba Day,, where people throughout the world are joining up and saying, even if the media doesn’t speak about Lumumba and his importance and his significance, they’re going to do so. And they’re doing that from the platform of Every January 17, he’s being held up, along with the colleagues who were assassinated with him, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito. So his legacy is in very, very good standing with not only Congolese youth, but people throughout the globe.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Maurice Carney, co-founder and executive director of the group Friends of the Congo. You can find them online at Maurice Carney, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

MC: Thank you, Janine. It’s been my pleasure.

Originally published on, January 25th, 2022. Reprinted with permission.     

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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Over 7,000 Nurses On Strike In New York City. Here’s Why

Nurses, organized by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) are demanding safe patient-to-staff ratios, fair wages, and to maintain existing healthcare benefits

By Natalia Marques, People's Dispatch

On Monday, January 9, over 7,000 New York City nurses from Mount Sinai and Montefiore hospitals in Manhattan and the Bronx, respectively, went on strike. Nurses, organized by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) are demanding safe patient-to-staff ratios, fair wages, and to maintain existing healthcare benefits.

Nurses, who authorized a strike on December 21 with an overwhelming vote of 98.8% in favor, have been in contract negotiations with hospital administrations across the city. Initially, the number of nurses set to strike was around 16,000, at eight hospitals: NewYork-Presbyterian, Montefiore, Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Morningside and West, Maimonides, BronxCare, Richmond University Medical Center, and Flushing Hospital Medical Center. However, hospital bosses scrambled to reach tentative agreements with the nurses to avert a strike at all hospitals save Montefiore and Mount Sinai Hospital.

The mood outside of Mount Sinai Hospital, in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, was fiery, despite negotiations being tense for the past few days. The picket line swelled with a crowd of hundreds of nurses, bisected by a road of slow-moving vehicles, many honking in support.

Mount Sinai management has claimed that NYSNA walked out of negotiations, while NYSNA has claimed the same of the hospital bosses.

“It is deeply unfortunate that instead of agreeing to either of these solutions and rescinding its strike notice, Mount Sinai’s NYSNA leadership has made the decision to ask nurses to leave patients’ bedsides during a tridemic,” claimed Mount Sinai on January 9.

Montefiore also made similar implications regarding the commitment of NYSNA nurses to their patients. “Despite Montefiore’s offer of a 19.1% compounded wage increase—the same offer agreed to at the wealthiest of our peer institutions—and a commitment to create over 170 new nursing positions, and despite a call from Governor Hochul for arbitration, NYSNA’s leadership has decided to walk away from the bedsides of their patients,” wrote the hospital in a statement.

Again and again, hospital bosses and their representatives have hammered in the point of how disastrous a strike by nurses would be. A strike would be a “public health calamity,” claimed Ken Raske, of the Greater New York Hospital Association.

Nurses are indeed essential, as evidenced by hospital executives’ costly efforts to make up for the losses of the strike by transferring infants to other hospitals or hiring travel nurses, who are paid more than a regular nurse. Union nurses have pointed out the incongruency of these decisions, as the millions of dollars required to prepare for a strike could be used to simply pay nurses more. And, as striking nurses have emphasized consistently, the picket line is the last place they want to be.

“We would rather be in there, doing what we love,” Diane, a nurse at Mount Sinai, told Peoples Dispatch, referring to the hospital building behind the picket line.

“We don’t wanna leave our patients. This is the last thing that we ever want to do. But unfortunately we’re pushed to this point,” said Jessica, also a nurse at Mount Sinai. “Management left their patients, not us. We’re here fighting for our patients.”

These nurses are referring to one of the primary concerns of unionized nurses: the lack of safe staff-to-patient ratios at New York City hospitals. New York state actually has existing staffing laws, which were passed in 2021 to address precisely the issue of hospitals using understaffing to cut costs. However, since then, New York state has failed to enforce these laws. Mount Sinai currently has 500 staff openings and Montefiore has 700, according to NYSNA.

Julia, another Mount Sinai nurse, told Peoples Dispatch: “When there’s too many patients being taken care of, then it compromises safety, and at the same time, it compromises your license. So that’s why we’re here. It really is safety for the patients as well as for the nurses.”

“Who were [the ones] here during the pandemic? Who is actually at the bedside?” Julia continued. “So if it is [the hospital executives’] family being taken care of, how could you expect me to really be addressing all of the issues of the one patient, if there’s maybe 17 other patients being taken care of in the emergency room in or in the ICUs or as inpatients.”

Hospital bosses claim that understaffing is due to a shortage of nurses. In reality, nurses are leaving the profession at increasing rates due to low wages and high stress. Union nurses argue that by investing in hiring more staff, which will decrease stress, and paying nurses more for their work, hospitals will be able to address a shortage of nurses. Instead of making these investments, the union has pointed out that hospital executives paid themselves tens of millions in bonuses during the height of the pandemic.

“We want New Yorkers to be taken care of. We stayed with you during COVID. You clapped for us with pots and pans,” said Nella Pineda-Marcon, nurse at Mount Sinai and NYSNA secretary, at a January 9 press conference at the Mount Sinai picket line. “Our loyalty is with New Yorkers. Our loyalty is with the community. It’s never profit over patients.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Defense sector contributed heavily to 45 senators who secured $1.8 billion in military construction earmarks

January 5, 2023

The end-of-year funding bill that Congress pushed to pass in late December contained more than $1.8 billion in earmarks for new military construction projects. Agencies and managers typically hire defense contractors to execute these projects, and a new OpenSecrets analysis found that the 45 senators who secured these earmarks received an average of 51% more cash from the defense sector than their colleagues during the 2022 election cycle.

Earmarks – congressional provisions in discretionary spending bills that direct funds to a specific project – are typically reserved for senators’ pet projects. These provisions were temporarily banned in 2011, but Congress restored earmarks in 2021 with rules to make the process more equitable and transparent, including posting earmark requests online and letters certifying lawmakers have no personal or financial stake in the project.

The $1.8 billion in military construction earmarks included in the omnibus bill passed Dec. 23 are separate from the record-setting $858 billion annual defense spending authorization bill passed on Dec. 15. The omnibus bill funds both the National Defense Authorization Act and the earmark provisions.

The omnibus spending bill includes earmarks for military construction in 32 states. Provisions range from child development centers to missile magazines and maintenance aircraft hangars.

The 45 senators whose requested and secured military construction earmarks made it into the omnibus bill reported receiving an average of $110,930 in political contributions from the defense sector during the 2022 election cycle as of post-general election filings. The remaining 55 senators received an average of $73,557 from the defense sector during the same period.

Twelve GOP senators with military construction earmarks in the omnibus bill reported receiving an average of $131,121 from the defense sector, nearly twice the $72,921 that Senate Republicans who do not have military construction earmarks in the omnibus package reported receiving on average. 

The 33 Democratic senators with military construction earmarks reported receiving an average of $103,588 from the defense sector last election cycle compared to $75,015 for those who didn’t request military projects.

Of the 20 senators who received the most money from the defense sector during the last election cycle, 13 requested military construction earmarks that made it into the omnibus bill.

Sen. Jack Reed (D–R.I.), the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is a top recipient of contributions from the defense sector. Reed, who is not up for reelection until 2026, reported receiving nearly $289,050 from the defense sector during the 2022 election cycle.

The omnibus bill contains one military construction earmark from Reed – a $46 million project to construct a consolidated headquarters, medical and dining facility at the Quonset Air National Guard Base in his home state.

Retiring Sen. James Inhofe (R–Okla.), who served as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the 117th Congress, was also a top recipient of defense sector contributions during the 2022 election cycle. Inhofe reported receiving $153,650 from individuals and PACs affiliated with the defense sector during the 2022 election cycle.

The Republican senator was such a staple on the committee that the Senate and House armed services committees named the annual defense authorization bill the “James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023” as a tribute to his legacy and leadership. He also secured a whopping $356.3 million in military construction earmarks for his home state of Oklahoma in the omnibus package. 

Earmarks for military construction at Tinker Air Force Base related to Boeing-developed aircrafts account for $219 million of Inhofe’s total military construction earmark requests. Two earmarks totaling $204 million would go toward building new hangars for the KC-46A aircraft refueling and airlift system, and another $15 million would go toward planning and development of an operation center for the E-7 early warning and control plane.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) received more money from the defense sector than any other senator during the 2022 election cycle – although the $387,407 he received is a relatively small portion of the $41.1 million the majority leader’s campaign reported receiving as of post-general election filings. Schumer secured five military construction earmarks totaling $20.4 million alongside fellow New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is not up for reelection until 2024 and received just $1,940 from the defense sector during the same period. 

The New York senators secured $3.1 million to design a physical fitness testing facility at Fort Drum, plus an additional $6.8 million earmarked to construct an access control point in the U.S. Army base. Other military construction earmarks include $3.6 million to design additions to the Lexington Armory’s National Guard Readiness Center, $2.8 million to design a combined operation and alert facility at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and $4.2 million for “unspecified minor construction” at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“Senator Schumer is proud to have a long history delivering much needed federal funding for important projects, including at Fort Drum in the North Country and Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, which are critical to both the local and upstate economies and critical to national defense—keeping the bases, their jobs, and our troops in Upstate NY,” a spokesperson for Schumer told OpenSecrets in a written statement, adding, “That’s why he’s been able to help bring back more federal dollars to New York than the state sends to Washington, D.C. in the last two years.”

The spokesperson also highlighted key victories in bringing those federal tax dollars back to New York, including a provision in the spring omnibus package allocating $27 million to improve drinking water quality at Fort Drum.

Another top recipient of defense sector funds also secured military construction projects that would benefit military families. The biggest military construction earmarks secured by Democratic Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff totaled $26 million to design and build a child development center addition to Fort Gordon.

Defense sector donors also contributed heavily to Warnock, who raised more money than any other U.S. Senate candidate during his contentious 2022 reelection bid. Of the $150 million Warnock raised during the last election cycle, his campaign received $324,192 from the defense sector, while Ossoff — who is not up for reelection until 2026 — received just $1,498.

Warnock secured a total of $40.6 million in military construction projects, all but one with Ossoff. In addition to the child development center, Warnock also secured an additional $2.1 million to design a National Guard and Reserve Center Building at Fort Gordon, and the pair secured $1.1 million to plan an security forces squadron operations facility at Moody Air Force Base as well as $5 million to design an Army Reserve Center at Dobbins Army Reserve Base.

Senior Researcher Dan Auble contributed to this report.

Originally published on January 5th, 2023 on  

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