The drumbeat continues for the twelve members of the Committee on Deficit Reduction to step up and match their newly acquired power with a new-found commitment to transparency. Today, more than a dozen organizations joined Sunlight on a letter to Super Committee members, urging them to voluntarily disclose the campaign contributions they receive from now until the committee completes its work. Just as important, the groups call for members to disclose information about the special interest meetings Super Committee members take while serving on the committee.
The letter noted that failure to ensure transparency of these fundamental avenues of influence will reinforce the public’s mistrust of the deficit reduction process and risk delegitimizing the Committee’s work.
The Committee’s efforts to make its work transparent by creating a website and making some meetings public only go so far. Real access and influence come from large campaign contributions and when special interests meet with members to plead their case. Yet nothing will be disclosed about either lobbying or campaign contributions until well after the committee makes its recommendations. Too late, in other words, for the public to understand or respond to money and access–factors that may play an oversized role in the decision making process of super committee members.
Already the public, as well as members of Congress who do not serve on the Super Committee, are at a disadvantage. The committee has begun working to find ways to make enormous cuts to defense and social spending—cuts that will affect every one of us. Yet there is no disclosure of who is asking the committee members for help or who is writing large checks to committee members. The Committee’s work is too important for secrecy to be an option.