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Makers of airport body scanners spent millions lobbying government: report

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | November 23, 2010
Companies that sell full-body airport scanners now sparking national outrage spent millions of dollars lobbying government, doubling their efforts over the past five years and hiring well-known Washington figures to make their case, according to a new report.

The lobbyists also aimed to squash legislation that would have limited the body scanners to backup use only, according to the report.

USA Today said Tuesday L-3 Communications and Rapiscan Systems have spent more than $4.5 million dollars lobbying Congress and federal agencies. The companies have also sold more than $80 million dollars worth of machines to the government, according to data compiled by watchdog group the Center for Responsive Politics.
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L-3 Communications spent $4.3 million in lobbying for the first nine months of the year, almost double the $2.1 million it spent in 2005, according to the report. The New York-based defense contractor also tapped Linda Daschle, a former Federal Aviation Administration official and wife of Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic Leader, to lobby on its behalf.

Rapiscan Systems spent $271,500 in lobbying this year, up from the $80,000 it spent five years ago, the newspaper said. It also hired ex-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, a Bush appointee, whose Chertoff Group consults with the Hawthorne, Calif.-based OSI Systems Inc. subsidiary, according to reports.

OSI CEO and president Deepak Chopra also accompanied President Obama to Mumbai during a recent trip to promote trade, according to the company.

Rapiscan has sold $41.2 million worth of equipment to the government, and L-3 nearly $39.7 million, the report said.

Chertoff's firm denied playing a role in helping sell the body-scanning technology, and said it offered advice on "non-aviation security issues," according to USA Today.

Among the two dozen legislative targets of L-3's lobbying effort was a bill proposed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) that would have limited the airport scanners to backup use only, the paper said. The bill passed the House last year but never made it out of the Senate.

Boycotts of the scanners and the alternative "enhanced" pat downs threaten to delay travel Wednesday, one of the busiest travel days of the year.