The Underreported Story: The debt supercommittee's lobbying ties
Congress is set to return to Washington this week and the controversial, bipartistan supercommittee of 12 members tasked with paring down the deficit by $1.5 trillion will also start its work. The chosen dozen needs to find that amount in spending reductions over a decade or face $1.2 trillion in across the board cuts starting in 2013. But who's influencing the supercommittee?
The K Street Connection
The path between K Street, the home of many of D.C.'s lobbying firms, and Capitol Hill is a well-traveled one. Former lobbyists sign on to work as staffers for new members of Congress, and former staffers make their way to K Street firms to lobby their old colleagues on Capitol Hill. It's networking, Washington-style. The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the revolving door of lobbyists and staffers, reported that more than twice as many former lobbyists have been hired this session than in the previous one, giving lobbying firms even more ties to Congress.
The Washington Post reports that the debt supercommittee is heavily connected to lobbyists. Nearly 100 former staffers of the supercommittee's members now working as lobbyists who will undoubtedly be trying to convince their former employers to go easy on their clients.
So which committee members are the most connected? Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. (pictured), who has 25 former staffers now working as lobbyists, including a former chief of staff, David Castagnetti, whose firm lobbies for a number of industries, including health care, oil and gas, and the automotive industry, among others. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., comes in a distant second, with 14 former staffers now working as lobbyists, and one current staffer with a previous lobbying career.
At the other end of the scale are Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., who has only two former staffers now working as lobbyists, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., with two staff members who formerly worked in the lobbying industry.
Why It Matters
After a protracted debate over the debt ceiling, the supercommittee has been tasked with making deep cuts to the nation's spending. With so many ties to corporate interests, how will that influence the members' decisions on where to make cuts? Americans should be paying close attention as the supercommittee begins its work, to ensure the interests of the American people aren't shuffled aside by connections to powerful players trying to protect their interests.
Have a story you think isn't getting enough attention? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, ATTN: Underreported Story.
See what "Countdown" guest host David Shuster and Bill Press had to say about the supercommittee last month: