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Bipartisan Effort To Track Lobbyists' Donations to Super-Committee Members

Friday, September 30, 2011

Who says bipartisanship is dead?

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a Republican, introduced a bill,S.1498, last month to force members of the congressional super-committee on debt to disclose contributions over $1,000 within a 48-hour window.

Then in September, Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa, a Democrat, and Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, also a Democrat, partnered with Republican Jim Renacci to introduce the Deficit Committee Transparency Act. The Act would require super-committee members to promptly disclosure campaign contributions, and for them and their staff to disclose meetings with special interests within 48 hours.

Mimi Murray Digby Marziani of the Brennan Center writes in a blog post that "Unfortunately, both these bills are currently languishing in committee, and are not likely to see the light of day unless public attention forces congressional leaders to act. Even so, these measures are not enough."

Two other efforts are underway as well—HR2796, introduced by Rep.  Vern Buchanan (R-Fl) , would make member's meetings and agendas open to the public, and allow for television coverage of meetings; and S.1501, introduced by Rep. Dean Heller (R., Nev.) and cosponsored by Rep. Rubio (R-Fl), Rep. Vitter (R-La), Rep. Ayotte (R-NH), Rep. Paul (R-Tx), Rep. Boozman (R-Ar), Rep. Johnson (R-Wi) and others.

The Brennan Center wants committee members to be forced to disclose involvement in soliciting funds for independent groups that can be used to shield donations to a candidate, like SuperPACs, 501(c)(4)s, and trade organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. Only through making public any and all large campaign contributors, lobbying contacts and fundraising relationships with outside political groups, they say, will members be assured to focus on their duty to the greater public. 

The anti-tax National Taxpayers Union also supports passage of one of these acts. Pete Sepp, Executive Vice President, says a lack of transparency will not increase the trust that citizens have in their leaders. 

"We believe the process of the Super Committee needs to be as accessible to the public as possible."

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