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Super Committee Owned By The Super Rich

I’ve been wondering, given the partisan nature in the House and Senate these days, shouldn’t there have been thirteenth person on the “Super Committee” in case they are  deadlocked on an issue?  After all, that’s the reason we have nine Justices on the Supreme Court isn’t it?

News Corpse

The so-called Super Committee created by congress to dodge responsibility for …um… I mean to craft legislation for deficit reduction, has not been been particularly well received by anyone.

Newt Gingrich: I think this super-committee is about as dumb an idea as Washington has come up with in my lifetime.

Dennis Kucinich: It’s like, “Honey, I shrunk the Congress.” Congress is now reduced to a majority of seven members on a committee … Everything about this deal is wrong.

They are both right. It’s a dumb idea that puts way too much power in the hands of too small a group. It seems virtually designed to fail. The alleged incentive for the participants to reach an agreement is the threat of draconian cuts to social services and defense. But since the purpose of the committee is to make draconian, unpopular cuts anyway, why wouldn’t the members prefer to decline compromise and let the process take the blame?

What isn’t getting much attention, however, is that the members of the committee have vested interests in the affairs of the programs they are overseeing. In the 2010 election cycle members received combined over $122 million from the very industries and corporations whose budgets they must now slash. Those industries represent the most powerful sectors of the American economy including defense, health care, energy, and banking. The list of the biggest contributors to the committee members tells us a lot about what to expect from their deliberations:

Donor Amount
Club for Growth 993,394
Microsoft Corp 243,625
Elliott Management 233,704
EMILY’s List 202,656
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey 156,350
New York Life Insurance 139,850
General Electric 138,610
Boeing Co 135,910
JPMorgan Chase & Co 133,399
Amgen Inc 131,150
American Financial Group 125,652
DaVita Inc 118,200
Goldman Sachs 114,700
University of Washington 110,164
Comcast Corp 103,465
Blue Cross/Blue Shield 100,100
Citigroup Inc 95,599
Schering-Plough Corp 91,200
Denny Miller Assoc 90,900
[Source: OpenSecrets.org]

The pressure on these committee members to placate their benefactors will be enormous. And these wealthy special interests will certainly unleash their army of lobbyists to keep the federal funds flowing. With all the focus on just a dozen legislators it actually makes it easier to manipulate the outcome because lobbyists don’t have to spread the wealth, and their time, to the other 523 members of congress.

It’s notable that the conservative, anti-tax, Club for Growth so far outpaces the other heavy hitters on the list. Committee member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is their former president, but John Kyl (R-AZ) also got a generous gift. Many of the donors contributed to multiple members of the committee, i.e. Comcast, GE, and hedge fund company, Elliott Management.

There is one ray of hope and that is for the Super Committee members to demonstrate the famous cowardice of American lawmakers. They could actually deliver a balanced bill that makes targeted cuts and raises revenues from the rich and through the elimination of subsidies and loopholes. By doing so they would throw the ball back to the full congress and make them vote on it. After all, why should the super dozen take all the heat?

In any event, it is imperative that we have an accounting of the financial associations between the committee and their big contributors. In pursuit of that, Common Cause has initiated a campaign to support the Super Committee Sunshine Act (S. 1498), a bill requiring that all campaign and PAC contributions to Super Committee members are disclosed within 48 hours. That’s something all sides of this highly charged process should support.

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