Mere hours after House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraFDA proposes rule to offer over-the-counter hearing aids Overnight Health Care — Presented by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing — FDA panel endorses booster shots of Johnson & Johnson vaccine Biden administration to invest 0 million to boost health care, attract workers MORE (D-Calif.) to the debt-reduction supercommittee, lobbyists were gearing up to fete him at a fundraiser later this month.
The Investment Company Institute, which according to public records has already spent $2.4 million lobbying Congress this year, on Thursday touted a fundraiser for Becerra scheduled for Aug. 31.
This has drawn a rebuke from good-government watchdog groups who have called on the 12 members of the supercommittee to cease and desist all fundraising activity.
Far from stopping short, lobbyists hosting the Becerra event hope his seat on the powerful panel will draw a bigger crowd than usual.
“We’re hopeful of that,” said Jim Hart, a registered lobbyist and political affairs officer at Investment Company Institute. He advertised the evening as a rare opportunity to meet one of the few people who will have a say over the $1.5 trillion deficit-reduction package due by Thanksgiving.
“We hope you will join us for what will most certainly will be a most timely and insightful event!” Hart wrote in an email invitation obtained by The Hill. “On Wednesday, August 31st, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. we will host an event for Congressman Xavier Becerra, not only Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus but also who has just been named to the new deficit reduction commission.
“This will be Mr. Becerra’s first event since being named to the commission and may be one of the first for any of the twelve members of the group.”
The fundraiser will be held in ICI’s office at 1401 H St., NW.
ICI’s other registered lobbyists, Dean R. Sackett III, Peter J. Gunas III, Allen C. Huffman and Donald C. Auerbach, are listed atop the invitation with Hart.
The suggested contribution amount is $1,500.
Becerra said he did not ask ICI to trumpet his seat on the supercommittee to attract more contributions.
"I did not know, did not ask, would not ask and I will not ask any of my supporters to use my appointment to the select committee for purposes outside its principle focus," Becerra said in a statement. "That's my position today and that's what my position will be for my tenure on the committee."
Ianthe Zabel, ICI's spokeswoman, said the trade group took full responsibility for the language in Hart's e-mail and the decision to send it out to potential donors on Thursday afternoon.
Liberal and good-government watchdog groups argue it is not appropriate for members of the supercommittee to hold fundraisers while working on the massive deficit-reduction package.
Twenty-five groups sent a letter to Congress on Aug. 4 demanding they “cease all political fundraising for themselves, their party, or for other candidates; and provide full transparency on any meetings with outside groups or individuals regarding the committee’s work, including meetings with lobbyists, corporate CEOs, or donors.”
Craig Holman, the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, which signed the letter, predicted lobbyists would swarm the event for Becerra.
“This is likely to be a very, very successful fundraising event,” Holman said. “It’s going to go beyond [the] financial services industry. Government contractors who are eager to throw their money at the feet of the supercommittee will show up.
“This clearly shows the critical importance of getting disclosure of what’s going on and getting a handle on who is organizing these fundraisers.
“This is a small group that will be deciding the fate of our economy unilaterally,” he said of the supercommittee.
In an interview, Hart said the fundraiser has been “planned for some time” and he had previously sent out a first round of invitations.
Hart said Becerra’s campaign would pay for the room and catering costs, and ICI’s political action committee would host the event. The PAC hosts fundraisers for lawmakers about 10 to 14 times a year, he said.
Zabel said: "ICI's PAC sponsors 10-14 events a year and the schedule for each calendar year is set in January. Congressman Becerra's fundraiser was on this year's schedule set in January and followed our regular process."
Updated at 5:30 p.m.