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Several government watchdog groups have called on members of the new panel to stop fundraising during their deliberations and are particularly alarmed that Murray, the committee’s co-chairwoman, also leads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. As recently as Thursday, President Barack Obama scolded Congress for letting politics interfere with its work on developing policies to help the economy.
Those concerns, however, have had little resonance among lawmakers or leadership. To set special rules for the super committee on fundrasing would imply that existing rules don’t sufficiently insulate policy deliberations from political pressure. So, the parties go on.
The committee members already have four personal fundraisers scheduled between Sept. 7 and Oct. 4, on top of at least six DSCC events planned this fall, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
But fall fundraisers and ties with an ex-boss may not be enough to convince lawmakers to shake up the plans beyond what’s already been discussed for potential cuts.
“Everything’s been kind of lined up by now,” said Behrends Foster, who served as chief of staff for Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and now represents America’s Health Insurance Plans out of his own shop, Bluestone Strategies. “The people up [on the Hill] now are those on the chopping block or those who have some savings to offer.”
Defense contractors, hospitals, radiologists, doctors and drug companies are among the industry insiders most activated, industry insiders said.
Lobbyists will also take their arguments to the standing committees charged with making recommendations for cuts before Oct. 14, as well as to the House and Senate leaders who will be responsible for whipping their caucuses when and if the package comes up for final votes, they said.
Jack Howard, a lobbyist at Wexler & Walker who represents major defense companies, said that the makeup of the joint committee is going to make it hard to get through anything other than strong policy arguments.
Howard has never worked directly for any of the panel members, but he said he has worked with many of the Republican members in his capacity as a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush and as an adviser to then-Speakers Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), as well as then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.).
“These people aren’t going to cut me any slack because they know me,” Howard said. “The criteria won’t be who worked for whom or who raised the most money. ... The real criteria will be: What can my clients and I tell them that’s new, that they haven’t heard before? With this group and all their experience, that will be quite a challenge. That’s what will be the behind-the-curtain action.”
Correction: Sept. 1, 2011
An earlier version of this story misstated Nick Giordano's current employer. He works for Ernst & Young.