Groups call on Murray, ‘supercommittee’ colleagues to halt fundraising activities

A coalition of liberal groups is calling on Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, to stop all fundraising while serving on the debt-reduction “supercommittee.”

If Murray does not pledge to stop her fundraising activity for the reelection efforts of Senate Democrats, she should step down as DSCC chairwoman, some say.

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“It really sends a bad message to the American people when you’re the chief fundraiser trying to come up with this balanced approach to deficit reduction,” said Adam Smith, communications director of Public Campaign. “She’s going to be focused on this committee and also on fundraising? Will she make decisions based on whether it hurts the fundraising ability of the [DSCC]?

“She should step down or say I’m not going to raise any money,” Smith said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Tuesday that Murray would serve as co-chair of the powerful supercommittee.

Public Campaign and other left-leaning government watchdog groups that want to reduce the influence of special interests have released a letter calling on members of the supercommittee to stop fundraising.

“We believe this position as co-chair of the supercommittee is so important that there can’t be any suggestion at all that any of these members are under the influence of special interests,” said David Elliot, communications director for USAction, which signed the letter.


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“Given the corrosive influence that money has on our political system and the public perception of that corrosion, it would be in Patty Murray’s best interest if she distanced herself from the influence of special interests,” Elliot said. “The most demonstrative way to do that is to refuse money from special interests while serving as co-chair of this committee.”

The effort isn’t limited to good-government ethics groups. MoveOn.org, an influential liberal grassroots advocacy group; Demos, a left-leaning public policy research group; and Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive policy advocacy group, have also signed on.

“Americans have lost faith and trust in Washington because they believe corporate CEOs and lobbyists call the shots,” the groups wrote in an Aug. 4 letter organized by Public Campaign. “Rebuilding that faith will take actions, not words.”

The groups urged every member appointed to the supercommittee, which is charged with assembling a $1.5 trillion deficit-reduction package, to pledge to cease all fundraising for themselves, their party and other candidates. 

This would include Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), whom Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced on Tuesday would serve on the committee.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) each will make three selections to the supercommittee from their respective chambers of Congress.

The liberal coalition wants supercommittee members to pledge to disclose any and all meetings with lobbyists, corporate CEOs and political donors.

This proposal puts Murray in a tough spot. As chairwoman of the DSCC, her job is to raise millions of dollars for Democratic candidates in 2012. She is supposed to hold fundraising events with Democratic donors and call them on the phone to solicit contributions worth up to $30,800 in a single year.

She could put her fundraising activity on hold, but that would put Democrats at a disadvantage in the money race against the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Murray could delegate DSCC fundraising duties to aides, but many lobbyists and donors don’t like to cut big checks unless an important lawmaker calls them on the phone or meets with them personally.

A Senate Democratic aide dismissed the possibility that Murray might stop raising money for the DSCC.

“She’s not going to step down or stop raising money,” the aide said. “The DSCC is going to continue to raise resources to grow and preserve our majority.” 


A spokesman for the DSCC said Murray would not change any of her duties. 

"Senator Murray and the DSCC will continue to raise the resources needed to wage strong campaigns next year,” said Shripal Shah.


Good-government watchdogs argue the supercommittee is too powerful and the stakes in the next round of budget cutting are too high to allow special interests to shower donations on the panel’s 12-members.

Liberal groups are particularly concerned with government contractors who could lose billions of dollars in business and have a huge financial incentive to influence the debt-reduction package the panel must report by Nov. 23.

“The supercommittee is 12 individuals that are going to be charged with determining the health and welfare of the entire economy,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.

“They are becoming the focal point of lobbying activity,” he said of the supercommittee, noting that lobbyists often try to influence legislation by bundling campaign contributions from clients.

“Simply put, at this time like no other, America needs leaders who stand up for regular people, not wealthy corporate interests,” the liberal groups wrote. “The best way to insulate the committee is for appointed members to end all fundraising and to be fully transparent regarding with whom they meet while they serve on the committee.”

Twenty-five groups signed the letter.

This report was updated at 1:37 p.m. 

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