Politico is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to nominate Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., as the co-chair to the special joint committee convened to propose reductions in the debt, and Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and John Kerry, D-Mass., as his other picks. The announcement of picks to what has been dubbed the super committee will be formally announced on Wednesday.
All three have substantial ties to beltway influencers and special interests.
Sen. Patty Murray serves on the all-powerful Appropriations Committee and is chair of the Transportation Subcommittee within Appropriations. Over the two decades she has served in the Senate, $3.1 million of her campaign funds have come from lawyers and lobbyists followed by $2.4 million from the finance, insurance and real estate sectors. Some of her top corporate donors include Microsoft ($399,147) and Boeing Co. ($172,730) both of which are headquartered in Washington state.
According to news reports Murray has leveraged her position on the appropriations committee and directed earmarks towards several companies and groups represented by her former staffers. This became a heated issue in the last election where she was in a close battle with Dino Rossi, former Republican state senator and Washington businessman.
Murray is also chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the fundraising committee for Senate Democrats.
Thanks to his presidential run and his long career in the Senate, Kerry has deep ties in the Washington lobbying and campaign money nexus.
Some 40 former staffers are listed as lobbyists on OpenSecrets.org, including Steven Elmendorf, who is president of Elmendorf Strategies, which counts such clients as Ernst & Young, Micrsoft, and the Financial Services Forum, whose membership consists of a who’s who of Wall Street. *
An invitation to a recent fundraiser for Kerry's leadership PAC listed several lobbyists as hosts, some of whom are former staffers. These include Barry LaSala, who works for Elmendorf, Gregg LaSala, who lobbies for the Glover Group, and Brian Rice, a lobbyist for Verizon.
Over the course of his career, Kerry has collected a whopping $27.3 million from lawyers and law firms, $6.9 million from the securities and investment industry, and $6.9 million from major businesses. After contributions from university employees at the University of California and Harvard, his top donors have been Time Warner, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup Inc.
In the debt ceiling debate, Kerry spoke out strongly that tax increases should be considered as part of the package. Last year, Kerry got some unwanted attention from Boston media when it was reported he docked his yacht in Rhode Island, which does not tax “pleasure craft” as highly as his home state of Massachusetts.
Our profile on Baucus is here. As we noted, the Montanan has been pushing for tax reform, and 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.
We'll continue to follow appointments and potential appointments to the Super Committee as they're announced.
*Full disclosure: Sunlight's lobbyist Lisa Rosenberg was a staffer in Sen. John Kerry's office.