Wall Street Is Biggest Donor to Deficit Panel Members

Who’s been cozying up to the members of the new Congressional super committee?


With the committee set to decide on a whopping $1.5 trillion in federal deficit reduction this fall, lobbyists and corporations are trying to figure out which industries are best connected to the 12 members of the new panel.

You can bet that those connections will be pressed to the limit in coming months as companies and sectors scramble to ensure that federal spending they like and tax breaks they depend on aren’t slated for elimination.

As it looks at the new committee members, Wall Street may like what it finds. But defense contractors may find themselves wishing they’d ponied up more cash over the years.

A new study out Wednesday by the Center for Responsive Politics—and obtained by CNBC—finds that the specific industry sector with the most clout is finance, which was responsible for contributing a whopping 38 percent of the money raised by committee member Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) since 1990.

Overall, according to the center's research, the dozen super committee members have raised more than $50 million from the finance, insurance and real estate sector since the 1990 election cycle.

(The center has a grab-bag category of “miscellaneous business” that contributed more than the finance sector. But it is made up of companies in a range of sectors including retail and heavy industry and so doesn’t give a good feel for which sectors have sway with this group.)

The sector with the fewest contributions was defense, the center found—with the largest recipient, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), having received a paltry 2 percent of his contributions from that sector.

That may make it harder for the defense sector to use its influence to stave off major cuts to the Pentagon's budget that many analysts see coming as part of the supercommittee's budget plan. And by contrast, Wall Street may have an easier time protecting its sacred cows—especially tax breaks.

According to the center, the 12 committee members have collectively raised more than $592 million since the 1990 election cycle. About half of this money is associated with committee member Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential run, when he was the Democratic nominee.

The top three super committee members receiving money from the finance sector were Hensarling, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who received 20 percent of his contributions from the industry and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who received 18 percent.

By contrast, the top three recipients of defense cash have taken much smaller percentages— Van Hollen, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who received 1.9 percent, and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who received just 1.5 percent.