A tank and Tim Ryan

On July 14 th of 2021, Congressman Tim Ryan, who defeated progressive Morgan Harper in the Democratic Senate primary, was celebrating. In a press release, Ryan’s office commemorated his ability to work with “House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) and colleagues on the subcommittee” in securing committee approval for a $65 million upgrade to the M1 Abrams Battle Tank.

However, before this press release, Ryan had previously been the benefactor of sustained campaign contributions from General Dynamics, one of the world’s largest defense contractors and the manufacturer of M1 Abrams, which has been built in Lima, Ohio, since the 1970s. 

On February 17th, 2021, Ryan – at the time gearing up for his run against Morgan Harper – received $5,000 from General Dynamic’s political action committee, or GDC PAC, and another $5,000 just seven days later. A third $5,000 contribution from GDC PAC went to Ryan on April 27th of 2021.

Beyond direct contributions, defense contractors also distribute their incredible wealth in less overt ways.

On September 29th of 2021, David Jones gave $1,000 to Tim Ryan for his Senate campaign. One month after Jones’ contribution, Lyndon Boozer donated $500 to Ryan’s PAC. Shannon Finley gave $2,900 to Ryan’s PAC on December 31st for good measure.

All three are lobbyists for Capital Counsel LLC, a Washington-based firm which, according to campaign finance nonprofit OpenSecrets, was paid $200,000 in 2021 from Lockheed Martin.

Capital Counsel, in their lobbying disclosure report submitted on April 20th of this year, stated they had already spent $60,000 in 2022. Their goal is to push the needs of defense contractors, namely the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2022, or the defense budget which is $725 billion.

Interestingly, in a press release from March 11th, Ryan’s office gloated about the Congressman’s role in securing “Over $100 million in federal funding in defense appropriations,” including “funding for additional C-130J aircraft for the Air Force Reserve,” an airlift produced exclusively by Lockheed Martin. 

Ryan has repeatedly made the claim his support for the defense industry stems not from campaign contributions but loyalty to Ohio workers.

In the press release from July 14th of 2021, Ryan praised the M1 Abrams for having been “proudly built by Ohio workers for over four decades,” and said the funding supported “the men and women working every day to produce the tank.”

When confronted about his defense ties during the Democratic primary debate on March 28th against Harper and Traci Johnson, Ryan was equally defiant, calling employment in the defense industry “good paying, union jobs,” and citing “over a thousand workers at the Lima tank plant” as part of his reasoning.

“Average Ohioans,” Ryan continued, “[are] working in these industries. And I will always go to bat for them.”

Whether Ryan has “always gone to bat for them” is debatable, and the relationship between General Dynamics and its workers and their union (United Auto Workers, specifically UAW chapter 2075) hasn’t always been comfortable.  

On August 31st of 2021, seven months before Ryan’s statement at the debate, an employee of the Lima plant filed charges against General Dynamics to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The factory worker, whose name was redacted by the NLRB to maintain their privacy, alleges they were “discriminated against” because of their activities on behalf of UAW. General Dynamics is alleged to have suspended employment and later terminated the worker due to having “engaged in union and/or protected concerted activity.”

This union busting case was deferred by the NLRB, but when contacted by the Free Press to discuss the case’s eventual outcome, Robin Porter, a spokesperson for General Dynamics, said she was “not familiar with this matter,” and wouldn’t be able to discuss it if she did, since it involved the private information of an employee.    

Another Geneal Dynamics employee in Lima filed charges in 2021 with the NLRB against UAW chapter 2075 itself, alleging the union failed to represent the employee when they had grievances with General Dynamics.

Porter says General Dynamics has had “a great relationship with our UAW,” and that “our relations have always been good.”

When this Free Press reporter tried to speak with UAW local 2075 President Steve Conley, he said of the aforementioned cases, “It’s none of your business.”

Ryan has always presented himself as adamantly pro-union. On January 28th of this year he Tweeted “union busting is disgusting,” and showed his support for Starbucks workers in a Instagram post from April 14th.

However, when asked about his relationship with UAW chapter 2075 or knowledge of these cases, no one from Congressman Ryan’s office responded.


Zurie Pope is a reporter, essayist, and columnist, pursuing a bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Cincinnati. His work has appeared in The News Record, Youth Journalism International, Unpublished Magazine, and The Nation. Topics of interest for him include campaign finance, political extremism, and the corrosive effect of corporate influence on the media. As for social media links: Twitter: Instagram: