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Report: Over 100 former staffers of supercommittee members have moved to lobbying shops

The 12-member congressional super committee has been tasked with removing $1.5 trillion from the national budget, and the Center for Responsive Politics has taken notice of Washington’s revolving door and is crunching numbers in order to provide a more accurate picture of who might be influencing the committee members.

As the New York Times reported, based on the Center’s data, more than 100 former staffers of the members have moved on to lobbying entities. In addition, currently about a dozen former lobbyists are now employed in key congressional positions that may be called upon to help with research and positions.

Michael Beckel, a spokesman for the Center, told the Times that “everyone is mobilizing to keep their pet projects off the chopping block.”

Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation added that campaign contributions and lobbying reports for the 12 super committee members won’t be made available until Jan. 15, weeks after the work of the super committee is completed.

The Center noted on its own blog that members of the super committee are, by and large, far more wealthy than average Americans. According to the group’s analysis, the members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction range in net worth from just over $100,000 to more than $238 million, holding a median net worth of $1.2 million.

Members of the super committee will have nearly unfettered cutting ability to national programs, most of which serve vulnerable populations. Education funding, affordable housing, nutrition program and more are on the table for possible cuts.

The median American family wealth is $96,000 annually, and there is only one member of the super committee — U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, with a net worth of $108,507 — who has an accumulation of wealth on par with American families. U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, more than triples average Americans with his net worth of $296,504 — and the distance only become more pronounced from there.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, top the list with nearly $239 million and just over $16 million, respectfully. In general, Republican lawmakers on the super committee maintain much higher levels of personal wealth than do the Democrats assigned to the committee. In fact, Kerry is the only Democrat on the committee with personal wealth in excess of $1 million; U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl is the only Republican on the committee with personal wealth below $1 million.

The Center also looked at the top contributors to super committee members, and noted that at the top of the list was the conservative Club for Growth, which gave more than $1 million to Republican members. Microsoft Corp. was in second place with 90 percent of its $944,419 in donations going to Democrats.

Top GOP donors include Dow Chemical, American Financial Group, AT&T, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co., the American Bankers Association, National Auto Dealers Association, General Electric and the National Association of Realtors.

On the Democratic side — which includes presidential campaign donations made to Kerry in 2004 — donors include EMILY’s List, the University of California, Time Warner, Goldman Sachs, Harvard University, Citigroup, DLA Piper, Sakadden, Arps et al and General Electric.

Collectively, the super committee members have raised more than $592 million since the 1990 election cycle, although about half of that total is associated with Kerry’s previous presidential bid.

There are no members of the Iowa delegation serving on the super committee. Members are:

  • Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee
  • Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Senate Democrat’s conference secretary and chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
  • Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the Senate Minority Whip
  • Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the former president of the conservative Club for Growth
  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the former head of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush
  • Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee
  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee
  • Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the conference chair of House Republicans
  • Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House Assistant Minority Leader
  • Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking Democratic member of the House Budget Committee
  • Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee

As The Iowa Independent previously reported, the super committee will need to release its plan to cut between $1.2 and $1.5 trillion by Nov. 23, and the plan will be given an up or down vote (no amendments or delays allowed) by Dec. 23. If the plan is not enacted by Congress — and it is difficult to imagine a plan that would meet the demands of both House Republicans focused on protecting defense interests and Senate Democrats focus on increasing revenues — across the board cuts are triggered on Jan. 15, 2012, with half coming from national security and defense. Medicare would also be subject to cuts, although Social Security and Medicaid are excluded. Those reductions would take effect in January 2013 and continue through fiscal year 2021.

Whether or not the super committee is successful, the deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling included a mandate that both chambers of Congress must hold a vote before Dec. 31 on sending a balanced budget amendment to the states, a process that would require a two-thirds majority and is highly unlikely to find such a level of favor. Still, the situation itself will most certainly replay in election ads the following year.

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