AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card It may all be legal, mainly because the laws are written by the beneficiaries, but it’s disgusting nonetheless. From an ethical standpoint, it’s unacceptable to have a government that’s essentially for sale. But compounding the outrage are the national-security implications. With the country waging its War on Terror, and with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan whose very lives depend on the equipment they use, it’s abhorrent that our leaders’ decisions may be influenced by special interests. Politicians swear they’re not being bought, but they’re hardly beyond doubt. We already know that ousted Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-San Diego, accepted bribes from a defense contractor. And the burgeoning Jack Abramoff scandal threatens to implicate any number of leaders in crooked deals with Indian gaming interests. Americans have good reason to be suspicious. The flow of thousand-dollar donations to political leaders and million-dollar contracts back to defense interests ought to have alarm bells ringing. When it comes to military contracts, good government is not only a matter of ethics, but life and death. For a company trying to secure a federal defense contract, it’s not necessary to pony up big contributions to powerful politicians – but it sure helps. The results of a Daily News review of the records speak for themselves: Of 32 Southern California companies to receive defense contracts over the last three years, 30 pumped cash into the campaigns of local or national politicians, either through direct contributions from their top executives, political action committees or Washington lobbyists. That leaves just two companies that reaped rewards without first sending a tribute to Washington – two apparent exceptions to an unseemly rule. Now, no one alleges that any laws have been broken, or that there’s a quid pro quo in which companies get contracts in exchange for contributions. But what few deny is that there is an unofficial system of pay-to-play at work here: Give money, and more powerful people will give you a hearing. You still might not get the contract, but at least you’ve got a shot. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!