|By: David Dayen
FireDogLLake.com, August 12, 2011
This little bit just perfectly encapsulates how Congress is purchased by corporate special interests.
Political supporters of Rep. Xavier Becerra (D., Calif.), one of the appointees to deficit-reduction committee, have already figured out how to raise revenue—by touting his seat on the panel to raise money for his political campaign.
About two hours after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi named Mr. Becerra to the committee on Thursday, a political supporter began notifying Wall Street lobbyists about a $1,500-per-person fund-raising event on Aug. 31.
An emailed invitation from Jim Hart, an official with the Investment Company Institute, noted that it will feature Mr. Becerra, who is “not only vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, but who also has just been named to the new deficit reduction committee.” It promised attendees “a glimpse into what will most assuredly be the primary topic of discussion between now and the end of the year.”
“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,” the invitation continued. “This even 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.”
Now, I have met Xavier Becerra, I respect him, and I expect him to be generally good on the Catfood Commission II. In a statement, Becerra said that “I did not know, did not ask, would not ask and I will not ask any of my supporters to use my appointment to the select committee for purposes outside its principle focus.”
But it’s pretty clear that this is how Washington works. Powerful members of Congress are subject to a special interest feeding frenzy. As soon as the lobbyists and the wealthy contributors find out who has the ability to advance their interests, they run to those members with wallets in hand. The members of the Catfood Commission II have received $3 million from special interests with business before the committee over the past five years. That includes over $1 million from the health care industry and $700,000 from defense companies. That doesn’t even include the Wall Street cash, which from the above letter you can see is abundant. The system is awash in money, and in Washington, that money doesn’t just equal speech, it trumps it.
This situation is even worse, because you’re going to see members of Congress practicing for their next career by acting as lobbyists to the Catfood Commission for their favored special interests. So all the money funneled to those leaders with influence over members of the committee is essentially going toward that lobbying effort. The House Republicans demanding that the Defense Department lay out the national security implications of the proposed trigger cuts to the Pentagon are clearly acting on the behalf of defense contractors, for example.
With this kind of organizational and financial muscle, it’s nearly impossible for the voices of regular people to get heard above the din.