Transparency rules proposed for budget-cutting 'super committee'

Members of the House and Senate appointed to the “super committee” under the new debt-reduction law would have to disclose their campaign contributions every 48 hours while serving there under legislation introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, known as the super committee, was created as part of the law that raised the nation’s debt ceiling and created a framework for reduced federal spending.

Under Vitter’s proposal, the 12 super committee members would have to disclose campaign receipts of $1,000 or more from their own campaign finance committee, and from any leadership political action committees they head, every 48 hours from the time of their appointment to the committee’s authority expires on Jan. 21, 2012. The super committee members have not been appointed.

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“We’re talking trillions in cuts, and there are already threats to increase taxes on many job creators,” Vitter said Aug. 2.  “We need to see full transparency and accountability because these committee members will be making huge decisions with a lot on the line.”

But disclosing amounts of more than $1,000 may not be sufficient, according to the Sunlight Foundation, an open government group.

“We are generally supportive. but we would hope the threshold for disclosure would be at a lower level,” said Gabriela Schneider, communications director for the foundation. She declined to specify the exact preferred threshold amount.

Under Federal Elections Commission rules, individual donors have to disclose contributions of $200 or more in an election cycle. Also under federal rules, candidates generally disclose their fundraising every 48 hours only during the 12 days before a primary election and 12 days before a general election, in addition to quarterly and monthly reports.

Advocacy groups have been urging Congress to ensure that the committee’s actions are transparent, in anticipation of a huge lobbying push by defense contractors, medical providers, federal employee unions and other interests likely to affected by substantial reductions.

To promote open government, John Wonderlich, policy director for the Sunlight Foundation, made five recommendations for super committee transparency, according to a blog entry he wrote on Aug. 3. They include live webcasts of all official meetings and hearings, committee reports to be posted for 72 hours before a vote, disclosure of every meeting with lobbyists and "powerful interests," disclosure of campaign contributions as they are received and financial disclosures of committee members and staffers.

Two additional organizations, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, and, have endorsed those recommendations.

"Sunlight is ramping up our effort to get the new 'Super Congress' committee to be as transparent as they are powerful," Wonderlich wrote.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Thu, Aug 4, 2011

Actually $1.5 trillion is closer to the annual deficit spending than the total real budget. (Look up what the DEFICIET spending each year has been for the past few years if you do not believe that.) The dirty secret is that budget figures most people typically use do not include all real government spending. Also, if you know your Federal government, you know that the budget is created by the House, not by the President. Looking at DEFICIT spending during the Bush administration you will find that the last two years with Democrats firmly in control of the House and the Senate, was much greater than the previous 6 years where Republicans had some semblance of control. While Republicans do deficit spending and should be chided for doing so, the Democrats are far worse and accusations from them of Republican deficits are hypocritical at best and dishonest at worse.

Thu, Aug 4, 2011

Comments such as the above make a joke of commentary. The present budget is around $1.5T a year. Proposing a 2 year limit for $1.5T in cuts would mean 50% reduction in budget, eliminating the defense budget, eliminating everything but Social Security (cut them and then youll see real revolts) and Medicare. No FAA or any other services. Why not take a knife to your guts to reduce weight....BTW, $7T of the debt occured on REPUBLICAN Bush's watch. Thats simple arithmetic. Thats half the $14T debt figure. Bush also raised the debt ceiling 8 times with not the slightest resistance from the controlling Republican party.... Whats need is some measure of cost reduction over time (Like paying down your mortgage, thats 30 years, not 2) and continued ANNUAL cost reviews. (signed by Rational)

Thu, Aug 4, 2011

Lets hope they make real cuts this time. $2 trillion in cuts over 10 years is next to nothing when compared with the spending excesses when the Dems had firm control of both the House and the Senate for four years starting in 2007. If the $1.5 trillion is for any period over two years, it also will be next to meaningless. Counting all the promised entitlements, the Feds owe well over $100 trillion for the next couple of decades. Its like having a $100,000 loan and saying you are making big strides in paying it off with $2,000 in payments over the next 10 years all the while continuing to spend more than you take in. What a joke!

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 Daniel Maryland

You do know this task for the 'super committee' is unconstitutional, right?

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