Here’s an interesting side-effect of the debt ceiling compromise: the 12 members of Congress appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction charged with coming up with a plan to wring $1.5 trillion in savings out of the federal budget will be extraordinarily inviting targets for intense, all-out lobbying.
This should not surprise anyone. Even by Washington standards, $1.5 trillion is a lot of money. AARP, farming interests, NPR, corporations, hospitals, colleges, state and local governments, and all of the various special interests who could lose part of their federal funding or their special tax breaks will be willing to do whatever it takes to protect their turf and make sure the cuts come out of somebody else’s hide. Lobbyists who have good relationships with any of the Joint Select Committee members will be in high demand. Lobbyists who don’t will be sucking wind. And for the special interests, it’s not a bad deal — instead of having to lobby 535 Senators and Representatives for years at a time, they only need to influence the decisions of 12 people who must submit their recommendation within a few months.
So, every lobbyist on K Street will be keenly interested in who gets appointed to the Committee. Let’s hope that Congress takes steps to ensure that whoever is selected to serve on this stunningly powerful, temporary entity doesn’t have the opportunity to capitalize on their status by having constant fundraisers between now and the date the Joint Select Committee’s recommendation is due. The “Divine Dozen” are being entrusted with enormous responsibility. They should all pledge not to seek any campaign contributions, fund-raising support, or any other form of benefit during their term of service on the Joint Select Committee. The Committee’s recommendation will be controversial enough without people wondering if a few well-placed contributions influenced its decision-making.