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Deficit commission relies on outside staffing

By Laurie Bennett

November 11, 2010 at 9:51am

The president’s deficit commission was bound to ruffle feathers, no matter what its recommendations.

Yet as the Washington Post reports today, its reliance on staffing by outside groups has stirred additional criticism.

Organizations such as the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the Economic Policy Institute have paid the salaries of staffers working for the commission.

The Peterson Foundation was founded by Republican Peter Peterson, former chairman of the Blackstone Group. As the Post notes, he launched a $6 million campaign this week to persuade Congress to cut the deficit.

Although he is not a member, Peterson has several paths of influence on the national commission. His foundation helps fund the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. He and two of his foundation execs serve on that organization’s board.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a nonpartisan group, and its board includes prominent Democrats and Republicans, including former members of Congress and former heads of the Office of Management and Budget.

The Economic Policy Institute has a decidedly liberal bent. Representatives of major labor unions hold board positions, as does the editor of The American Prospect.

The institute does not release the names of its funders on its web site or in its public 990 tax forms. On its web site, it simply says that most of its funding comes from foundation grants and labor unions.

The deficit commission is co-chaired by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina and former chief of staff to Bill Clinton.

Commission members were appointed by the White House, the majority leader and speaker, and the minority leaders of the House and Senate.

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