Watchdogs, liberal groups: Deficit committee should disclose meetings with lobbyists

More than two dozen watchdogs and liberal-leaning political groups want the members of the congressional "supercommittee" that will decide the next round of budget cuts to halt their fundraising and disclose meetings with lobbyists. 

In an open letter to Congress Thursday, public interest groups including Common Cause and Public Citizen, along with and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said lawmakers who are appointed to the powerful joint committee, which hasn't been formed yet, should take extra steps to increase transparency and reduce the influence of special interests in Washington.

The groups said they were concerned by press reports that detailed lobbyists’ plans to try and influence the supercommittee as they work to find $1.5 trillion in government spending cuts by late November, as authorized by legislation passed this week to raise the debt ceiling. 

Government funds for the defense and healthcare industries will come under threat, and tax breaks for the oil and gas and financial services sectors could end up on the chopping block as well.

“Now, just a dozen members of the U.S. House and Senate will be in charge of proposing additional deficit-closing measures. These 12 members will come under intense pressure by wealthy corporate interests and their lobbyists representing big banks, defense contractors, and polluters to leave their special tax loopholes, unwarranted subsidies, and wasteful programs untouched. Ordinary Americans will be left vulnerable to shoulder even more of the burden,” the letter says.

The groups ask that whoever is appointed to the supercommittee to take a two-part pledge: First, they should stop all political fundraising for themselves, other candidates and their parties. Second, they should also disclose meetings with anyone regarding the supercommittee’s work, including donors and lobbyists.

“Americans have lost faith and trust in Washington because they believe corporate CEOs and lobbyists call the shots. Rebuilding that faith will take actions, not words,” the letter says.

The letter follows a letter sent Wednesday to congressional leaders by the Sunlight Foundation that listed recommendations on how to best increase transparency for the supercommittee.