The 12-member deficit-reduction panel solicited recommendations from standing committees of the Congress, but there have been no subsequent public hearing vetting the claims of one committee’s priorities against another.
“They spent all this time working on farm programs, which is the tail of the dog,” says Rep. Jack Kingston (R) of Georgia. “The big money is in food stamps, school lunches, and WIC [the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children]. Will the super committee deal with it? Hell, no.”
A coalition of public-interest groups has called on the super committee for a higher standard of transparency, as well as a moratorium on fundraising by members of the panel, because the stakes are so high. Instead, with the exception of four public informational hearings, most of the committee’s deliberations have been behind closed doors.
But there is some evidence that members took voluntary action to scale back fundraising activities. Five of the six senators on the super committee raised considerably less money in the third quarter of this year – that is, after they began serving on the panel – than in the second. Four saw decreases of more than 60 percent, according to a report by the Sunlight Foundation.
Still, since the panel did not adopt any formal rules limiting fundraising, activists remain worried.
“From AARP to health care and defense, the lobbying of the super committee could end up being bigger than what we saw for health-care reform and banking reform,” says Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation. “At this point, due to the absolute lack of transparency, we don’t have a good sense of where it’s going.”