Special interests conflicts everywhere, says watchdog group
Snapshots of eight potential committee chairs shows closeness to special interests
Washington, DC – The possible Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives would usher in a new class of chairmen who have raised millions in campaign donations from the industries they would be charged to regulate, according to a new analysis by Public Campaign Action Fund. The organization’s analysis was based on the total amount raised for both candidate committees and leadership political action committees found at the Center for Responsive Politics website.
The group pointed to the ranking Republican member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, as a prime example. Rep. Barton, who controversially apologized to BP at a hearing last summer, has raised $3.7 million from the energy sector, including $1.9 million from electric utility interests and $1.3 million from oil interests.
“Placing the committees in the hands of these chairmen would be the same as giving the power to Wall Street, Big Oil, insurance giants and their lobbyists to write laws,” said David Donnelly, director of Public Campaign Action Fund’s Campaign Money Watch project. “Conflicts of interest are everywhere. It’s time to get Congress out of the fundraising business and place elections back in the hands of everyday voters with the Fair Elections Now Act.”
In addition to Rep. Barton, Public Campaign Action Fund’s research also pointed to seven other potential chairmen with significant amounts raised from the industries they would oversee:
- Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) is in line to be the next chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. If Republicans go through with plans to roll back the Wall Street reform legislation passed this year, it would emerge from this committee. Rep. Bachus has raised $6.1 million from the finance, insurance, and real estate sector, with more than $1.1 coming in this election cycle alone. Over his career, Bachus has pulled in $1.2 million from commercial banking donors, and another $1.1 million from those representing the securities and investment industry.
- The House Appropriations Committee ranking Republican member, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), is already a lightening rod for fundraising scandal, and has been named one of the most corrupt members by the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The Committee is notorious for special interest earmarks lined up for business clients by well-connected lobbyists. Rep. Lewis has raised nearly $888,627 from lobbyists for his campaign and leadership committee over his career – more than almost any other Republican.
- Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) is the chairman-in-waiting for the House Ways and Means Committee. The committee has the potential repeal of all or part of the health care law on its agenda, and as such, Rep. Camp has hauled more than $3 million in health care and insurance money. The New York Times profiled Rep. Camp’s lobbyist fundraising in a news piece this morning.
- Under a Republican takeover, the House Natural Resources Committee would be chaired by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA). Rep. Hastings received $409,948 in career contributions from the energy and natural resources sector.
- Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) is in line to takeover the reins at the House Agriculture Committee. Rep. Lucas received more than $1 million in career contributions from the agribusiness interests, including nearly a third of that -- $331,750 -- in the 2010 cycle alone.
- The House Armed Services Committee would be headed by defense industry favorite Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA). Over his career, Rep. McKeon has received $842,250 in contributions from the defense sector.
- The House Transportation Committee ranking Republican member is John Mica (R-FL), a recipient of $1.2 million from the transportation sector.
“Taken together, these potential chairman represent the corporate special interests’ wildest dreams,” said Donnelly. “If Republicans take control, Americans will have to fight to hold these members accountable for any favoritism they will show their corporate donors. This is not a new problem, but it looks like it’s about to get worse, much worse.”
Public Campaign Action Fund works to hold politicians who are against comprehensive campaign finance reform accountable for where they get their political donations. Learn more at www.campaignmoney.org.