Published in the Boston Herald.
The country’s long-term fiscal health rests in the hands of 12 members of Congress serving on the super committee charged with reducing the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is one of the 12.
Super committee members — “Supers” — like Kerry, wield a tremendous amount of power. But with great power comes great responsibility, and now the Supers have a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability as the committee’s work advances. Kerry has the chance to be a Super hero by agreeing to rules that will ensure the super committee’s work is done in the light of day and without the taint of secret money and back room deals.
Unfortunately, that is a very real danger. Massive lobbying efforts are already underway. According to Politico, one lobbyist said he is “preparing by writing 12 really large checks.” On the very same day the last Supers were appointed, a lobbyist group sent an invitation to a $1,500 per person fundraiser, trumpeting its event as the first opportunity for lobbyists to curry favor with a member of the committee.
If a Super takes a check from a defense industry lobbyist one day, then votes in the committee to protect the defense industry’s interest the next, the American public have the right to know. With these kinds of special interests descending on the committee, the Supers must adopt and follow strong transparency rules to ensure legitimacy in the process.
Fortunately, Kerry has been a strong supporter of steps to increase transparency for money in politics in the past, and with heightened stakes, he should recognize the importance of disclosure here.
First, Kerry should disclose all contributions received by his campaign or any related group.
Second, Kerry should disclose any involvement in soliciting funds from groups that seek to influence politics but refuse to disclose their donors, like so-called Super PACS and 501(c)(4) and (c)(6) organizations.
Third, he should disclose all contacts that he or his staff has with those seeking to influence committee recommendations — whether they are campaign contributors, lobbyists, political groups or representatives from business corporations, nonprofits and unions. These reports should include the names of those who meet with Kerry or his staff, the organizations they represent and the topics they discussed.
The Supers have been tasked with overcoming government gridlock and riding to the rescue of our long-term financial future. Ultimately the committee’s co-chairs will set the rules governing the committee’s procedures, but Kerry can, and should, voluntarily adopt stronger transparency measures and disclose all of his contributions, solicitations, and contacts.
The Supers possess tremendous power. They must meet the highest standards if we are to meet our fiscal future with confidence in the path they have chosen.