‘Supercomittee’ members have busy fundraising calendar

Members of the new powerful “supercommittee” are scheduled to attend a slew of campaign fundraisers this fall when they return to Capitol Hill.

The senators and House members on the panel that has been tasked to come up with an at least $1.5 trillion deficit reduction package by Thanksgiving were selected for their seniority and prominence in their respective parties. That status though also entails a full fundraising calendar every year to help other candidates, which will likely have the supercommittee members being feted by lobbyists and donors for interests that will be hugely affected by the panel’s work.

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Watchdog groups have already raised the alarm. More than two dozen public interest and liberal-leaning political wrote to Congress on Aug. 4 urging the supercommittee members to put a stop to their campaign fundraising as the panel’s work gets underway.

Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, was one of the letter’s signatories.

“A lot of it is just going to go under the radar. It is going to be tough to connect the dots on who is trying to buy what favors with campaign cash,” Holman said. “These fundraisers are going to bring in a huge amount of cash because everyone who cares about the budget, which is everyone, will contribute to these lawmakers. It is exceedingly troublesome.”

Almost half of the 12 supercommittee members are expected to attend at least one, if not several, fundraisers this fall, according to invitations and schedules obtained by The Hill and the Sunlight Foundation. Since their selection to the panel, interest in these lawmakers is expected increase greatly among donors and lobbyists. 

“I suspect you will see a lot of fundraisers in September with all of these guys as ‘special guests,’” said a Republican fundraiser.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) has a busy fundraising fall, according to a directory of events sent out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Friday and obtained by The Hill.

Clyburn, a supercommittee member and the House Assistant Democratic Leader, will be involved in at least nine events starting from September to November — fundraising for either himself, a political action committee he is affiliated with called BRIDGE PAC, or other candidates, such as Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Some of the fundraisers could involve potential issues under discussion by the supercommittee, such as the “Healthcare Breakfast” at the swanky Caucus Room on September 13, according to the DCCC’s directory of events.

An aide to Clyburn said there would be no changes to the lawmaker’s fundraising calendar.

“Congressman Clyburn’s schedule was set far in advance of [Thursday’s] appointment to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, and at this time he plans to keep his schedule. His oath is to serve his constituents and the American people, and he believes an open and transparent process will be the best way for this panel to demonstrate the integrity of its work,” said Patrick Devlin, Clyburn’s communications director.

Clyburn is not the only supercommittee member with fundraisers scheduled this fall.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is slated to attend a fundraiser hosted for him by a number of lobbyists and Pfizer’s PAC among others on September 7 at the high-end Italian restaurant Fiola in Washington, according to Time Magazine. 

The National Association of Realtors will host a fundraising luncheon at their headquarters for Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and another supercommittee member, on October 4, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), another supercommittee member, is scheduled to attend a baseball game at Nationals Park on September 7 to benefit his Leadership for Today and Tomorrow PAC, according to the DCCC’s directory of events.

Becerra’s appointment to the supercommittee attracted attention earlier this week when an invitation to another fundraiser hosted by the Investment Company Institute touted his expected attendance at the event alongside his membership on the deficit reduction panel.

The supercommittee’s co-chairwoman, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), will have very direct fundraising duties as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). The DSCC has a full calendar of fundraising events scheduled for the fall, including at least one that mentions Murray as a co-host for a September 13 fundraiser at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

An aide to Murray said the senator can handle both her responsibilities to the supercommittee and the DSCC.

“Senator Murray joined this committee to take on the serious task of tackling the debt and deficit in a balanced and bipartisan way. This committee is her number one priority, but she is not going to have any trouble multitasking,” said Eli Zupnick, Murray’s press secretary.

Such assurances have not resolved watchdog groups’ concerns though. Holman said the fundraisers scheduled for the supercommittee members will become part of a massive lobbying campaign to influence the debt panel’s work.

“They are going to become the center of an intense lobbying campaign as every government contractor, corporation and special interest will be lobbying just them,” Holman said. “It’s a huge concern.”