The Supercommittee is charged with delivering, by November 23, recommendations for $1.5 trillion in cuts from the federal budget over the next 10 years. The recommendations, if they are reported out, will be subject to a legislative plebiscite in the House and Senate. That is, a “yea” or “nay” vote with no amendments and no filibuster. If the committee fails, “trigger cuts” will be imposed across the spectrum of federal funding.
So it would be of interest to the public to know who is contributing to and lobbying members of the committee. Iowa Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack is the principal author of a bill that would require disclosure of political contributions, and member and staff meetings with lobbyists, within 48 hours of each occurrence. The bill is going nowhere.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has suspended fundraising until the committee completes its work, a nice but disingenuous gesture because checks based on previous commitments can be written on November 24. Real-time disclosure is far more useful.
The next filing date for political contributions is in January, so the public will not know who is making political contributions to members of the committee until more than a month after its work is concluded.
The public is left to look at past contributions, and a good place to look is the Center for Responsive Politics website, which lists individual and aggregate contributions received by committee members.
Beyond matching members to interest sectors supporting them, there is a lot in the CRP’s report.
If Kerry has suspended fundraising, other committee members are pressing on. Two hours after the leadership released the names of Super Committee members, the Investment Company Institute sent out an invitation for a $1,500 fundraiser for California Democrat Xavier Becerra, according to Politico. The trade group’s pitch: “This will be Mr. Becerra’s first event since being named to the commission and may be one of the first for any of the twelve members of the group.”
And South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn, for whom a new leadership position was created in 2010 when he challenged Steny Hoyer in the race for minority whip, has 10 fundraisers scheduled between the time the committee was created in August and its November 23 deadline.
Clyburn is a member of the Democratic leadership. His 10 events are evenly divided between Friends of Jim Clyburn, his personal campaign fund, and BRIDGE PAC, his personal leadership PAC.
At $1,500 to $5,000 a ticket, Clyburn will need more than 10 fundraising events to come close to what Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey raised from one source in 2010. The anti-tax, anti-government Club for Growth, the largest donor to Republican committee members, with a total of $1,103,407, gave Toomey more than $800,000. Toomey had previously served as the organization’s director.
The second biggest giver to committee members is EMILY’s List, an advocacy group that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women to Congress (and recently worked to promote social issues such as education funding) with $710,313. There is, however, only one woman on the committee — Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray, who raises money for the Senate Democratic leadership.
The huge funding blocs on opposite sides of the central issue of contention that committee members will have to address — to raise taxes and cut spending or reduce the deficits by spending cuts alone — suggest a deadlock that committee members will not be able to break.