Deficit Super Committee: Who Will They Look Out For?

Public Campaign Action Fund is now Every Voice. Check out our new website: EveryVoice.org

Who will the deficit reduction “super committee” look out for, regular Americans, or their special interest campaign donors?

Nine of the twelve super committee members who will negotiate a $1.5 trillion deficit reduction package have been named. Looking at the large flows of money from corporate interests into these decision-makers’ campaigns over the years, it becomes clear that in order to restore credibility, super committee members need to keep the influence of moneyed interests out of negotiations that will impact the finances of those very same industries and companies.

Americans want to know these members will be negotiating with the interest of everyday people in mind. With all nine picks having received large sums from many of the largest corporate interests in this debate, how will they reassure Americans that they are working for them and not the companies that heavily finance their campaigns?

Highlights of campaign money sources for these nine members:

  • Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus played a powerful role in shaping health care reform -- the health care and financial industries with the greatest interest in that debate have also been his largest contributors. Prominent health care companies, including major insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield and pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough Corp (now part of global giant Merck & Co.) are among his top ten career contributors. But the firms that most heavily populate the top spots in his donor list are banks and financial firms like Goldman Sachs and AIG (#1 and #2 respectively).
  • The financial sector is also a major contributor to Sen. John Kerry, though he receives even more from lawyers and lobbyists who have given nearly $30 million to his campaigns since 1989. Among Kerry’s top career contributors are Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, along with Skadden, Arps et al, WilmerHale LLP and Mintz, Levin et al, three lobbying firms that routinely spend $1 to $2 million each year lobbying on behalf of their corporate clients. Highlighting the close ties between his office and lobbying firms, the Center for Responsive Politics database shows 40 former Kerry staffers have gone through the revolving door and worked for lobbying firms before or after they worked for his Senate office or campaigns.
  • Sen. Patty Murray’s campaigns have also benefitted substantially from the contributions from lawyers and lobbyists who have given $3.4 million to her campaigns over her career. She has raised the largest amount overall in this grouping (not counting Kerry who ran a presidential campaign), surpassing colleagues who have served longer such as Senators Baucus and Kyl (per data available since 1989). Murray has also received more money from the defense industry than any other member in this group (again, not counting Kerry).
  • The largest contributing sector to Sen. Jon Kyl’s campaigns has been the financial sector, particularly the securities and investments industry. Another large contributing sector for Kyl has been the health sector and health care professionals in particular. Blue Cross/Blue Shield is among his top career donors.  His single largest donor since 1989 has been Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative organization with a super PAC. In the 2010 cycle, Club for Growth made $8,240,060 in independent expenditures to help conservative candidates win.
  • Club for Growth has also been the largest single donor for Sen. Pat Toomey’s campaigns. Again like Kyl, Toomey relies heavily on the financial sector, his top-contributing sector at $3.4 million, and the securities and investment industry. His second largest single donor is hedge fund management company Elliot Management.
  • Sen. Rob Portman is new to the Senate, but not to Washington, D.C. or campaign money from corporate interests. At $4.6 million, the financial sector stands out as as his largest contributing sector, with the American Financial Group, FMR Corp. (Fidelity Investments), Elliot Management, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase all situated in his top ten career donors list. He also receives a sizable amount from lawyers and lobbyists who have given $2 million to his campaigns.
  • As chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, with jurisdiction that includes tax and health care policy, Rep. Dave Camp not surprisingly raises the largest share of his campaign money from the financial and health sectors. In this group, he is the largest recipient of health sector money after Kerry and Baucus. His largest single career contributor is Dow Chemical (Dow Corning is #3) and his second largest contributor is Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
  • Rep. Jeb Hensarling serves in the Republican House leadership team as Conference Chair. Contributions from the financial sector at $3.9 million dwarf all other sectors that give to him, with First State Bank, Bank of America, and the American Bankers Association among his top five career donors.
  • Rep. Fred Upton has received substantial support from the health and financial sector over the years, but more recently he has received a larger share of campaign money from the energy sector and from the electric utilities and oil and gas industries in particular. The total contributions Upton received from these two industries in the 2010 and 2008 cycles combined ($616,800) was more than four times greater than the same total from the two previous cycles ($141,650). This tracks with his rise to power as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and his abrupt move from moderate to conservative positions on energy and environmental issues. Public Campaign Action Fund, along with the League of Conservation Voters issued this press release today on Rep. Upton’s close ties (and voting record to prove it) to Big Oil interests.

It remains to be seen how this super committee will handle the huge task of further deficit reduction. Given the big money they’ve received from corporate and special interest money in their careers, it doesn’t look good. Ordinary Americans have suffered enough, and can’t afford to have any more of the burden placed on their shoulders. Members of this committee need to look out for us, not wealthy interests. Only time will tell.


[1] All “career” totals include contributions made since 1989, as provided by the Center for Responsive Politics. Sector totals here include contributions to leadership PACs. Unless indicated, other mentions of career totals do not include leadership PAC contributions.

[2] In calculating the health sector total, we included the insurance industry from the financial sector per the industry and sector categories provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

[3] The lawyers/lobbyists sector includes the lawyers/law firms industry and lobbyists industry as organized by the Center for Responsive Politics.

[4] This chart includes money raised for Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, making his career total since 1989 particularly large.