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Why the Super Committee is Super Illegitimate

Members of Congress can't serve big money donors and the general public at the same time.

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Sure doesn’t look that way. The Sunlight Foundation has reported that the Club for Growth has been a top doner for GOP Senators Kyl and Toomey. In fact, Toomey has previously served as the organization’s president. Bank of America and the American Bankers Association have been very generous to GOP Representative Hensarling, while Citigroup has lavished large sums on Senator Kyl.

Committee Dems are well-backed by financiers, too. Citigroup and Goldman Sachs have been quite bountiful to Senator Kerry, while Senator Baucus has big money friends at Goldman, JPMorgan Chase, and American International Group (AIG).

Ernst & Young, the accounting firm famous for fighting regulation and then getting charged with fraudulent practices that led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, doled out large sums to members of both parties, notably Hensarling from the GOP side and Baucus from the Democratic side.

The “No new taxes” program doesn’t do much for most of the public, but is very appealing to super-rich bankers and financiers. Never mind that the taxes of the super-rich are lower than they have been since Hoover was in office. As long as the money from big doners continues to pour into Congress unchecked, the agenda of its members -- no matter what committee or super committee they sit on -- will be skewed against the public welfare in favor of the 1 percent. That’s why we keep hearing, even from Democrats, that “everything is on the table,” including programs that keep millions out of poverty.

And of course the arms industry has not been shy about opening its own spigot of cash. William Hartung recently noted on the Huffington Post that super committee members have enjoyed over $1.1 million in campaign donations from weapons manufacturers over the past two election cycles, "including contributions to each member's campaign committee as well as to leadership PACs." He points out that a leadership PAC is a political action committee that allows a member of Congress to channel contributions to the election campaigns of other members, "a way of winning good will that can be tapped in support of specific initiatives or if the member runs for a leadership position." Hartung further observes that 22 former staffers of super committee members are currently employed as lobbyists for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and other arms contractors. Gotta love that revolving door.

Concessions. Decisions. Speeches. Offers. Deals. Here’s what it all amounts to: The super committee is a failed project based upon a failed premise resting upon a failed democratic process in a failing political system.

A Constitutional amendment banning corporate money from politics is long overdue, and perhaps our only hope for ensuring that the members of Congress we elect actually work on our behalf.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet contributing editor. She is co-founder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of 'Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.' Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.

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