Becerra, Clyburn, Van Hollen are House Dem Picks for Super Committee


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has tapped three close allies who are on powerful House committees to serve on the Joint Special Committee to find new ways of cutting the budget to roll back the national deficit. Her picks are: Reps, Chris Van Hollen from Maryland, James Clyburn from South Carolina, and Xavier Bacerra from California.

Both Van Hollen and Clyburn also served on Vice President Joe Biden’s deficit reduction committee earlier this year.

Xavier Becerra, who serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, is ranking member of the subcommittee on social security—a flash point for debt reduction discussions. He is also Democratic vice chair.

First elected in 1992, Becerra has collected most of his campaign money from the health sector and from labor–$1.3 million apiece. After that, his biggest contributors are donors from the finance, insurance, and real estate sector, which has given him $1.2 million. Lawyers and lobbyists have steered more than $650,000 his way. 

The Wall Street Journal reports today that a fundraiser for Becerra, a lobbyist for the Investment Company Institute, is already touting his new position as a way to draw money for a event at the end of the month: "This will be Mr. Becerra’s first event since being named to the commission and may be one of the first for any of the twelve members of the group. This event could give all attendees a glimpse into what will most assuredly be the primary topic of discussion between now and the end of the year.”

Becerra also has a fundraiser planned at the Nationals versus the Los Angeles Dodgers game on September 7, when he will be in the thick of negotiations. The invitation asks for $5,000 for a donor to be considered a “chair” of the event.

One former staffer works as a lobbyist for Ernst & Young representing a long list of clients such as Dow Chemical and General Electric.  Another lobbies at Akin Gump, where clients include the Business Roundtable. And another represents health care interests for Foley Hoag.

He was one of 95 House Democrats who voted “no” on the recent debt ceiling legislation.In his statement at the time, he said, It does nothing about the main drivers of our deficits: the Bush tax cuts, and the unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…. We owe it to those who built this country to protect Medicare and Social Security from being blindsided by future indiscriminate cuts.” 

Clyburn serves as assistant leader to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D. Calif., a new position she created for him when the Democrats lost the majority in the House. Formerly, he was majority whip.

Over the course of his career, the congressman has collected more than $1 million in campaign contributions from lawyers/lawfirms and lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Other top donating industries include electric utilities ($490,613), transportation unions ($465,000), pharmaceutical/health products ($408,327), and health professionals ($397,902). His fifth largest career donor is General Electric, with $74,800. General Electric has garnered headlines for its lobbying and maneuvering on taxes; in 2010, the company paid none at all.

Lobbyists have been generous to a scholarship charity for students in his district, contributing more than $808,000 from 2009 through 2010. Clyburn holds an annual golf tournament for the charity. Among the donors have been Dell Inc., AT&T, Comcast, and Fluor Corp. Earlier this year the AP reported that Clyburn “worked to ensure that a Flour-led partnership received $1.6 billion in federal stimulus funds to decommission two obsolete nuclear weapons reactors and perform other cleanup tasks at the government’s Savannah River nuclear weapons facility.” The company’s PAC and executives have contributed $49,000 over the years to the congressman’s campaign committee. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the caucus of which Clyburn as a member, was the top recipient of contributions made by lobbyists from 2009 to 2010, with $6.6 million.

Several former employees work as lobbyists for such firms as Microsoft, the lobbying firm the Podesta Group and ATS Communications. A cousin, William Clyburn, Jr., runs a consulting firm where he represents some telecommunications interests and the city of Charleston, among other clients.

Clyburn has been a prolific earmark sponsor. In 2010 alone, he was listed as a sponsor for $57 million worth of projects. These include a number of military projects, such as $4 million to the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance for a project and $3 million for a “Vibration Management Enhancement Program.”

During the recent debate over the debt ceiling, Clyburn urged President Barack Obama to invoke the 14th amendment to raise the debt ceiling if he was delivered only a short term deal.

Van Hollen’s rise in the House has been fast. He was first elected in 2002 and was picked to be the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – the campaign arm of House Democrats — for the 2010 election. He is presently the ranking member on the House Budget Committee and will play a major role in seeing that the Democrats’ priorities are met.

A large chuck of the campaign cash he’s raised in the last decade has come from lobbyists and lawyers, a total of $1.6 million. Another $1.2 million has come from the financial, insurance and real estate sectors, and more than $750,000 has come from the healthcare sector. Two of his all-time top donors are DC- lobby shops Arent Fox LLP ($152,323) and Arnold Porter ($61,240), both of which have a long list of pharmaceutical and health services related clients.

Van Hollen has also been a prolific earmarker and between 2008 and 2010 has sponsored or co-sponsored earmarks worth $624 million including directing money to the D.C. suburbs in Maryland.