WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Nearly 100 lobbyists once worked for congressional members on the so-called supercommittee tasked with cutting the federal deficit, a study indicates.
A Washington Post analysis of disclosure data also indicates three Democrats and three Republicans on the panel employ former industry lobbyists on their staffs.
The 12-member bipartisan, bicameral panel must find $1.5 trillion in long-term spending reductions by Thanksgiving, with a final plan to be approved by Congress. If there is no deal, $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts divided evenly between defense and non-defense programs will be triggered beginning in 2013.
The large army of lobbyists makes a volatile situation worse, observers said.
The supercommittee has already been drawing fire from watchdog groups for planning its activities in secret and allowing members to fundraise while negotiating a budget deal.
"When the committee sits down to do its work, it's not like they're in an idealized, platonic debating committee," said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, which is tracking ties between lobbyists and the panel. "They're going to have in mind the interests of those they are most familiar with, including their big donors and former advisers."
"Everybody in the Western world will be trying to influence the supercommittee at the same time," Loren B. Thompson, a defense industry consultant at the Lexington Institute, told the Post. "If it was constructed to scare the daylights out of the political system, it's certainly done the job."