Better Know a Super Committee

Super committee member Xavier Becerra (D-CA) says everything should be on the table, and that there are "no sacred cows" as they scramble to cut $1.5 trillion from the deficit (jobs!).  No sacred cows except their campaign contributions and contact with lobbyists as they meet, that is. 

Watchdogs have circled on that theme hoping to pressure members to voluntarily disclose campaign donations and contacts with lobbyists.  Politico:

[...] a coalition of government reform and transparency organizations are demanding that supercommittee members voluntarily disclose their committee-related contacts with lobbyists and publicly report any campaign donations within 48 hours of receiving them.

The groups note in the letter that most federally mandated lobbying and campaign finance disclosure reports covering October, November and December – when the supercommittee is slated to conduct the bulk of its work – won’t become public until mid-January.

“Failure to ensure transparency of these fundamental avenues of influence will reinforce the public’s mistrust of the process and risks delegitimizing the committee’s work,” the 14 groups wrote in a joint letter being sent this afternoon to the dozen supercommittee members. “Your critical work on this committee has begun, and yet the public remains in the dark about special interests’ attempts to influence your decision-making process, whether by meeting with you or donating to your campaigns.”

According to Politico only three committee members have agreed to halt fundraising while the committee meets, but so far none have agreed to voluntarily disclose important details about contacts.  Lobbyists see the opportunity here with the concentration of power and no mandate for disclosure.  The Sunlight Foundation is hoping that changes with H.R.2860, the Deficit Committee Transparency Act.  Sunlight's Ellen Miller, via email:

Without transparency around this process, we don’t know who the committee members are listening to. But we can take a guess: Money speaks louder than words in Washington.

The committee members could easily take measures to increase transparency on their own: Disclosing their campaign contributions and meetings with lobbyists or powerful interests in real-time would be one way. But while the Committee has at least taken steps to have a few open meetings, it’s business as usual when it comes to campaign fundraising and secret meetings with powerful special interests.

This legislation can change that, but it needs your help. The bill has been introduced, but it needs cosponsors to gain momentum while it still counts -- the Super Committee has already started its work, and it has to make its recommendations by December, right around the corner.

Open the Super Congress. Ask your representatives to cosponsor the Super Congress transparency bill!

I sat in on a conference call with Sunlight policy wonks and staffers from  sponsor Rep. Loebsack's office last week that detailed the bill and the campaign.  Recording posted here.

Most of us are hoping this committee, like the Catfood Commission, just goes away.  But their recommendations in December might not.  Without this legislation, details on who influenced the committee won't drop until it's too late.  This may be an atypical disclosure ask, but this is an atypical committee about to make recommendations that could effect programs like Medicare and Social Security for the next generation.

Call your reps.

It's a Shame

It would be a damned shame if we finally lost a constituency as prized as seniors because of the current Democratic president. And yet that appear to be exactly what’s happening. In the summer of 2009, there were reports of a Democratic “problem” with seniors. Victoria McGrane and Chris Frates, writing in POLITICO, described how the town hall rage was being fueled by senior citizens. Seniors, angered by proposed cuts to Medicare floating around Congress, controversial talk of “death panels,” and the like, promised to be a concern for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. In 2008 they backed John McCain over Barack Obama by 8 points.

More than a year later, the news hasn’t gotten any better according to The Washington Post. A full 66% of older voters are enthusiastic about voting in November and most of them ready to cashier the Democrats. And they should be. Since they are free of the responsibilities of governing, the vocal conservative opposition has often been right.

In addition to the ones that exist with private insurance, governmental rationing regimes are not beyond the realm of possibility. People often confuse them with the completely innocuous concept of end-of-life counseling, which had been supported by Republicans in years past. The death panels, however, are notions of governmental bureaucrats—full of fulsome praise for the British system of rationing—with the power to deny care for the sake of cost-cutting. Responding to the criticism his work has engendered, bioethicist and administration official Ezekiel Emanuel assured us he was “writing really for political philosophers. [T]he average person, it's not what they're used to reading.”

As far back as 2009, there were new reports contradicting the president’s public statements that there were no cuts to Medicare in any of the proposed legislation. These days you find conservative activists warning us in the pages of The Wall Street Journal that the new reform law will: “Cut $818 billion from Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) from 2014-2023, the first 10 years of its full implementation; [Cuts] for Medicare Part B (physicians fees and other services) brings the total cut to $1.05 trillion over the first 10 years.”

There's more...

It's a Shame

It would be a damned shame if we finally lost a constituency as prized as seniors because of the current Democratic president. And yet that appear to be exactly what’s happening. In the summer of 2009, there were reports of a Democratic “problem” with seniors. Victoria McGrane and Chris Frates, writing in POLITICO, described how the town hall rage was being fueled by senior citizens. Seniors, angered by proposed cuts to Medicare floating around Congress, controversial talk of “death panels,” and the like, promised to be a concern for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. In 2008 they backed John McCain over Barack Obama by 8 points.

More than a year later, the news hasn’t gotten any better, according to The Washington Post. A full 66% of older voters are enthusiastic about voting in November, and most of them to ready to cashier the Democrats. And they should be. Since they are free of the responsibilities of governing, the vocal conservative opposition has often been right.

And they should be. Since they are free of the responsibilities of governing, the vocal conservative opposition has often been right. In addition to the ones that exist with private insurance, the possibility of governmental rationing regimes is not beyond the realm of possibility. People often confuse them with the completely innocuous concept of end-of-life counseling, which had been supported by Republicans in years past. The death panels, however, are notions of governmental bureaucrats—full of fulsome praise for the British system of rationing—with the power to deny care for the sake of cost-cutting. Responding to the criticism his work has engendered bioethicist and administration official Ezekiel Emanuel assured he was “writing really for political philosophers. ... [T]he average person, it's not what they're used to reading.”

As far back as 2009, there were new reports contradicting the president’s public statements that there were no cuts to Medicare in any of the proposed legislation. These days you find conservative activists warning us in the pages of The Wall Street Journal that the new reform law will: “Cut $818 billion from Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) from 2014-2023, the first 10 years of its full implementation; [Cuts] for Medicare Part B (physicians fees and other services) brings the total cut to $1.05 trillion over the first 10 years.”

There's more...

Diaries

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