On the eve of Thursday’s first meeting of the new 12-seat deficit-reduction committee, two of its members, Reps. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and David Camp, R-Mich., are scheduled to attend fundraisers for their political action committees.
Becerra’s event is planned for Nationals Park, tied to a game between the Washington Nationals and his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers, and Camp’s reception is at a downtown Washington restaurant.
In fact, there are at least 11 fundraisers scheduled through the end of the year on behalf of several members of the super committee charged with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years by Nov. 23, according to a list of invitations compiled by the Sunlight Foundation, http://politicalpartytime.org/supercommittee, a government watchdog group.
One member alone, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., has eight events scheduled for either his own campaign committee or his political action committee before Nov. 16.
These events remain scheduled—and defended—by the committee members or their staffs, despite repeated calls from some watchdog groups that they should be scrapped for the duration of the committee’s work.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), renewed her group’s concern about such events in a letter sent on Tuesday to supporters.
“Lobbyists are lining up to ensure their pet projects aren’t on the chopping block,” Sloan wrote.
Sloan also noted her group had already called for the committee members to cease all fundraising “so the public can have confidence the decisions they’re making are in the best interests of all Americans, not top donors,” referring to a CREW letter dated Aug. 17 to House and Senate leadership.
But Sloan said the only response has been “a chorus of crickets from Capitol Hill.”
Becerra, vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, responded that he has not changed his event schedule at all based on his selection to the deficit committee. “I don’t get a pass for having to run for reelection,” Becerra said. “So, I’m going to do everything I’ve done in the past.”
About his string of scheduled events, Clyburn responded, “They had been scheduled, so I have not canceled anything.”
Megan Piwowar, a spokeswoman for Camp—who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee—similarly defended his planned fundraising reception on Wednesday night at Fiola Ristoranta on Pennsylvania Avenue, saying it is not viewed as a conflict with his deficit-committee duties. To be designated as an official host of the Camp event costs $5,000; checks go to “Coordinating a Majority PAC.”
There are no fundraising events or invitations through the end of the year for either of the deficit committee’s two co-chairs, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, or Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., according to Sunlight Foundation listings.
However, the site does show that Hensarling will be participating in a “Ski Weekend” fundraising event in Park City, Utah, in February with other Republicans.
This article appears in the September 7, 2011, edition of NJ Daily.