Political Party Time

GOP Lobbyist's clients curry favor with Deficit Panel's Camp

Once the members of the powerful deficit-cutting committee were announced in early August, one of the first reported events where lobbyists could try to influence the panel was a fundraiser for Rep. Dave Camp’s, R-Mich., leadership PAC on Sept. 7.

Federal records offer a glimpse into who tried. $18,000 in donations came from the political action committees of clients of influential GOP lobbyist Susan Hirschmann, one of the hosts of the fundraiser, in the weeks before the event. And that total may very well climb higher when September's contributions are made public later this week.

The PACs for Pfizer (also listed as a host on the invitation), Comcast and Merck, all of which have stakes in the important negotiations of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction—dubbed the super committee—donated $5,000—just the amount requested on the invitation—to Camp’s leadership PAC or campaign in the weeks leading up to the event. The PAC of another pharmaceutical company, Abbott Laboratories, gave $3,000.

Of the four corporate PACs, all gave to Camp’s leadership PAC except Comcast's, which gave to his campaign.

The August donations were disclosed because many PACs file monthly fundraising reports. But a complete picture of who gave to Camp and the other panel members in the third fundraising quarter will only be released as candidates file their own reports this week.

Hirschmann, who works for Williams & Jensen, hosted the dinner with four other lobbyists and a former congressman-turned “senior strategic policy advisor.” One of the lobbyists, Sam Lancaster, works for Comcast. Two others work for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America and UPS, whose PACs did not report giving to Camp in August.

The 12-member committee is tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts by Thanksgiving. For lobbyists, influencing the super committee has been more difficult than their usual lobbying, according to news reports, and so fundraisers provide a rare opportunity for face time with the lawmakers. Some of the members have said they have curtailed their schedule of fundraisers. John Kerry, D-Mass., said he won’t put on any of his own but still attended one for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Camp and Fred Upton, R-Mich., have said they will not put on fundraisers unless the events were scheduled before their appointment.

The invitation for this fundraiser was sent out on Aug. 10, the same day Camp was appointed to the panel, according to Time Magazine’s Swampland blog. The event date was set in the spring, "long before any consideration of the Budget Control Act and the Joint Select Committee," Camp's spokesperson Megan Piwowar wrote in an email. She did not respond to a question asking when the invitation was first sent.

Although Hirschmann did not respond to a request to comment and federal records do not reveal whether a PAC’s donation is connected to a particular fundraiser, she may have convinced many of her clients to donate for the event.

Hirschmann is the former chief of staff to former House Majority Whip Tom Delay, and is a frequent fundraiser for GOP candidates in Washington, hosting 20 events in recent years in Party Time’s records alone. Her long list of clients include some of the most influential companies and interest groups in the capital—from the Chamber of Commerce to General Electric to some of the country's biggest pharmaceutical companies.

Merck’s gift came in the final days of August, while Comcast contributed on Aug. 10 and Pfizer contributed on Aug. 17, according to each PAC’s Federal Election Commission filings.

Abbott’s PAC gave to dozens of federal candidates on Aug. 22, including other super committee members. The PAC gave $1,500 to Max Baucus, D-Mont., $1,000 to Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., $1,000 to Fred Upton, R-Mich., and $1,000 to Upton’s leadership PAC. Merck also gave $2,500 to Baucus the same day the company contributed to Camp’s leadership fund, according to its FEC filing.