“Super Congress”: industry ties to some possible picks


With President Obama’s signature on the bill to raise the debt ceiling, congressional leaders now have 14 days to select the lawmakers who will quickly become the most lobbied politicians in town: the “Super Congress” of twelve lawmakers, six Democrats and six Republicans from both chambers who will be charged with the task of finding $1.5 trillion in cuts or revenue to lower the deficit. Nobody knows yet who will take on this task, but it’s a sure bet that whoever it is will already be in debt themselves — to the lobbyists and industries who fund their campaigns and who have a huge stake in the outcome of the deal. That debt will only grow bigger as monied interests use all the tricks of their trade to influence the deal.

Here is a list of a dozen lawmakers with highlights of their close ties to industries and lobbyists. We make no claim that these will be the anointed ones. We’ll be watching along with everyone else and will update profiles as we learn the identities of who will serve on this powerful committee.

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., is Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a key committee regulating tax, trade, Social Security and Medicare issues. Over the course of his his career in the House, his major donors have been healthcare interests, the insurance industry, and pharmaceutical companies. His top contributors include Dow Chemical and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

In a press statement in May, Camp toed his party’s line in calling for the administration to “demonstrate the leadership America expects from Washington and work with the Congress to enact significant reductions in government spending — including entitlement programs like Medicare.” He has also repeatedly gone on the record opposing a large tax increase.

In the past, lobbyists for companies such as AT&T and groups such as the Assisted Living Federation PAC have hosted fundraising events for Camp. Former Senator Trent Lott, who’s now  a lobbyist for the likes of AT&T, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, was also scheduled to hold a fundraiser for Camp on Aug. 4, which has now been canceled, according to the group managing the event.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is at the helm of the House Budget Committee and has been the chief architect of the Republicans’ budget plan, which called for a massive overhaul of entitlement programs. Ryan’s contributors include the insurance sector, securities and investment, and healthcare professionals, all of whom are affected by his budget proposals. Ryan has received more than $269,000 from the health sector, placing him tenth among Republicans and fifth among health services industry with contributions of more than $43,000, according to opensecrets.org.

His largest contributors include insurance giant Northwestern Mutual, AT&T, Koch Industries and Wall Street interests. In the last election cycle, Ryan’s campaign saw a sharp increase in donations, with his leadership PAC and re-election committee receiving more than $5 million, compared with only $2 million in 2008 — this despite the fact he wasn’t in a tight race. So far, Ryan has raised more than $2.5 million in the 2012 cycle.

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., – As Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Rogers has been a favorite among defense contractors and lobbyists giving contributions. On top of the list of sectors backing him is energy, with $783,000, followed by lawyers, law firms and lobbyists which, taken together, have contributed about $482,000 to his campaign and political action committee. Among the defense contractors on his top 20 donor list are Lockheed Martin and United Technologies, both of which have received earmarks from his committee in the last three years, according to data from Transparencydata.com.

With his deep ties to the the defense industry, Rogers could play an important role if he’s part of the committee, with defense being a key issue of contention between the dueling sides. According to the debt ceiling bill that was passed, if it comes down to the wire, and the super committee's recommendations don’t meet approval, there will be spending cuts to defense worth close to $600 billion.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the House Minority Whip and the person responsible in delivering votes from the Democratic caucus, has deep healthcare industry and lobbyist ties. He has received more than $3.6 million from the finance, insurance and real estate sectors over the years. He has also been a prolific fundraiser from law firms and lobbyists, collecting $2 million, and $2.6 million from the health sector.

Hoyer has 18 former staffers who have gone on to become industry lobbyists, including two of his chiefs of staff. Several who have gone on to lobby for healthcare interests, including Anderson Cory, his former chief of staff who is now a lobbyist with United Healthcare Group. At several points during the debt negotiations, Hoyer has explicitly reiterated his caucus’ stand which demanded tax increases as part of the deal.

Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Wash., is ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee and the lead minority member on the defense subcommittee. He has received flak for being close to lobbyists. In 2009, Dicks was was in trouble for receiving several donations from disgraced lobbying firm PMA group while he directed several earmarks for their clients. The Office of Congressional Ethics dismissed all wrongdoing in their report later that year.

But his top industry contributors have a clear link to the earmark recipients and to the lobbying groups that are their hired guns. On the top of this list are lobbyists and lawyers, who have donated more than $1.2 million to boost his career.  An additional $1 million comes from the defense industry.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D- Minn., who is the ranking member of the House Agriculture committee, will certainly be watching the negotiations closely if not selected to be on the super committee. While the debt ceiling agreement was devoid of most agriculture related topics, a deep cut to ag-subsidies could be top on the agenda for the chosen 12.

Peterson has received more than $3.2 million from the agriculture-business sector and about $1.2 million from the labor sector. He was also one of the 11 Democrats who crossed party lines to vote against the Reid bill. Peterson has voiced his concern about the structure of the committee in public. “My guess is that there won’t be anybody on there who will know much about this,” Peterson said, talking about the super committee yet to be picked.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas – A supporter of the debt bill, Hutchison is retiring at the end of the 112th Congress. While she’s been in the Senate, her top contributing industry has been oil and gas companies, followed by lawyers and law firms. Her top career donors include Enron, Exxon Mobil, and Shell Oil. Craig Felner and Lisa M. Jaeger, two of her former staffers, are now lobbyists for Valero Energy, one of her top donors. Among the bills the company is lobbying on is the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating regulations that would regulate greenhouse gases. The senator is a cosponsor. Hutchison also recently signed on to a letter to Obama arguing that oil and gas companies are an engine of economic growth, the implication being that talk of reducing energy subsidies should be ditched.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. – Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and one of the “gang of six” senators who came up with a deficit reduction plan, Conrad has taken a tough public stand on budget cuts. However, the gang of six’s plan, while suggesting $11 billion in cuts for from agricultural programs, left it up to the Agriculture committees to decide where to trim. The committees are a focal point for contributions from agribusiness. Conrad, who hails from a farming state with a large sugar beet contingent, is also a member of the Agriculture Committee. He has collected more than $1 million from agribusiness during his career in Congress, and the crop production industry ranks in his top five donating industries.  Among his top donors is American Crystal Sugar, which benefits from sugar subsidies. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Conrad told a gathering of the American Sugar Alliance that agriculture would need to take up some of the burden of cuts but pointed out that if the super committee does not come up with $1.5 trillion to spare by the deadline, agriculture would be “exposed,” adding, “We need to ensure that agriculture does not have a disproportionate share of the burden.”

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. –  Baucus has been pushing for tax reform, and this week he proclaimed that the debt bill should not have any effect on efforts to revamp the code. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus played a key role in enacting health care reform and is the key Senate lawmaker on any sort of tax reform. He’s also taken millions from major interests with a stake in the debate, with his top five contributing industries looking like a who’s who of industry groups that will be lobbying intensely: lawyers and law firms; Wall Street (securities & investment); insurance; health professionals; and lobbyists. During the health care debate, Sunlight reported  his close ties to health care lobbyists. These include David Castagnetti, a former chief of staff who represents a long list of health care companies such as Humana Inc., AstraZeneca PLC, and Procter and Gamble, but also others such as Koch Industries and Wal-Mart Stores. Castagnetti has donated to a Super PAC that supports Obama and is a regular as a host for Democratic Washington fundraisers.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. – Schumer was a strong advocate for lifting the debt ceiling. Hailing from New York, Schumer has always collected a lot of Wall Street cash. His top career donors are Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan Chase & Co. The senator also raised hundreds of millions for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee when he was chairman in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles. And he serves on both the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee and the Senate FInance Committee. Among the lobbyists who have contributed to his campaigns are Fred Graefe, frequent party host and Heather and John Podesta, who also host many fundraisers and are the top reported bundlers to congressional campaigns.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. – Agricultural subsidies are on the hit list for possible elimination or cut backs in deficit reduction proposals.  Roberts, who is ranking minority member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, supported the debt bill. However, agribusiness tops his list of donating industries. His lobbyist campaign donors include Richard F. Hohlt, who represents Atria Group, the parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris. Koch Industries, run by conservatives Charles and David H. Koch and headquartered in Kansas, is his No. 1 career donor. The American Bankers Association and private equity firm Blackstone Group also rank among his top donors.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. –  As ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, Sessions has complained vociferously that the chamber has shirked responsibility because it hasn’t passed a budget in years. He also voted “no” on the compromise, saying that it does not allow for enough accountability. However, like his fellow lawmakers, Sessions rakes in campaign contributions from the same big-monied sources. He has taken most of his money from the finance, insurance and real estate sector, and his top donors include lawyers/law firms, health professionals, insurance and real estate. Among the lobbyists listed as hosts on his fundraising invitations is Tim Rupli. Rupli, who represents several financial interests, including the payday lending industry, also owns a townhouse on Capitol Hill that is a frequent site of political fundraisers.