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Follow the Money: Pork-Powered Pig Preps for Flight


Whenever Marine One lifts off from the south lawn of the White House, identical decoy helicopters go with it, quickly trading places in a complex, evasive maneuver known as the presidential shell game.

The shifting formation is aimed at confusing potential attackers, a concern that reached a fever pitch after 9/11. It could just as easily apply to the corporations jockeying to replace the aging Marine One fleet — a boondoggle that’s wasted billions and fattened politicians’ war chests for years, as a short list of well-connected players maneuver to build a custom rotary aircraft deemed safe enough to fly the president through almost any crisis, even a nuclear blast.

The Marine One upgrade has played out from the start as classic pork-barrel politics. Portrayed as urgent, it has been bedeviled by delays and cost overruns, with contractors playing musical chairs for a seat at the table all the while.

“The president’s helicopter should be based on national security and sensible budgeting. Instead, it is being decided on who’s funding which politicians to stay in power, and about jobs in one district versus jobs in another,” said Daniel Newman, executive director of, nonpartisan money-tracking organization. “Basically, we have a broken system where paying for politicians to be elected and stay in office is what it takes to win favorable contracts.”

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