Politics

Kerry Cancels Fundraisers, Vows To Avoid Lobbyists While On Super Committee

As the work of the debt-reduction super committee gets underway in earnest, lobbyists have launched a “full-court press” to protect their clients from the chopping blocks — meeting lawmakers, hosting fundraisers, and engaging in grassroots outreach. “The 12 Members of the Super Committee are going to be lobbied so hard in the next four months, they will be known as the ‘Dirty Dozen,’” Republican lobbyist Alex Vogel told Politico last month. A Democratic lobbyist quipped that he was “preparing by writing 12 really large checks.”

But at least one member of the bipartisan committee has decided to the steer clear of Washington’s influence machine. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has canceled fundraisers and is swearing off lobbyists while the committee works:

I’m not meeting with a lot of lobbyists; I’m meeting with people I choose to meet with, who can inform me, assist in the process of crunching numbers and dealing with consequences, and so forth,” Kerry told the [Boston] Globe last week in his first extensive interview about his committee membership. […]

Kerry said he has already cancelled two fund-raisers and won’t raise any money during the committee’s work through Nov. 23.

I will not fund-raise; I will raise no money,” the senator told the Globe. “I’m not raising any money while the committee is working.”

Super committee members have scheduled at least 14 fundraisers through Thanksgiving, the committee’s deadline to find $1.5 trillion in savings, according to the Sunlight Foundation. “These events are basically giving access to these members for special interests,” said Sunlight’s Bill Allison. One of those hosting fundraisers is House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), who even created a new fundraising organization that will split money between his personal campaign and his PAC.

Most of the members are already prodigious fundraisers, with large war chests and strong backing from corporate donors and lobbyists. For instance, the Wall Street-aligned Club for Growth is the largest single donor to committee members, giving over $1 million to the group’s Republican lawmakers. The health care and defense industries have perhaps the most on the line in the negotiations, and the industries are employing dozens of former congressional staffers to help influence their former bosses. Meanwhile, many of committee’s staffers, especially on the Republican side, are former lobbyists themselves.

Good government groups have proposed special transparency rules for the super committee, given its unusual powers, calling for real-time disclosure of campaign contributions and meetings with lobbyists.