Money For Nothing
I think Ezra Klein hits the saddest part of Max Baucus' largesse from the health care industry - the Montana Senator simply doesn't need the money.
Imagine that Baucus is, at best, bemused by the lobbyists and corporate chieftains autographing checks in a futile effort to purchase his affections. Why let them? Baucus is from Montana. It's one of the smallest states in the country. It has a cheap media market. And Baucus -- who faced no serious competition in his last campaign -- isn't up for reelection until 2014.
Baucus could have shut off his fundraising operation and avoided the appearance of any and all impropriety. Instead, on June 10, he held his "annual fly-fishing and golfing weekend in Big Sky, Mont., for a minimum donation of $2,500." Sometime this month he'll preside over "Camp Baucus," a "trip for the whole family" that touts horseback riding and hiking on the list of activities. The problem with this is not that it necessarily influences Baucus's thinking on health-care reform. It's that all this industry money reduces his credibility to make necessary concessions and hard decisions. And there's no reason for it. He doesn't need the money.
I would guess that Baucus takes the money because he's supposed to take it. It makes him a major player in Washington, someone whose boots the lobbyists have to lick. It probably flatters him to have all these rich folks plying him for attention. If he has higher designs - and I'm thinking Majority Leader, not President - that money will come in handy, considering he can pass it around to other Senators to make allies for the next four years. Like any politician, he relishes the power.
The people are trying to turn the tables on that this week.
Progressive groups are launching a new round of advertising against Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, (D-Mont.), in an effort to persuade him to support a public option.
The Montana Democrat was the (unfortunate) winner of a contest sponsored by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America, in which the groups allowed members to choose which senator to target in an ad campaign. Baucus has, at times, indicated he supports a government run plan but it is not certain if the proposal will make it into the final version of his committee's bill.
For this, 15,000 progressive voters determined that he should get an additional bit of political pressure. The ads being run against the senator, which will air in three media markets in Montana -- Billings, Butte-Bozeman, and Helena - are duplicates of an old PCCC spot. Only it is customized for Baucus, pointing to the $3.9 million he has taken from "health and insurance interests."
Baucus is holding up the bill over how to pay for it, and I'd prefer to see some progressive action on that. But putting money into opposing Baucus rather than flattering and fluffing him is certainly something I can get behind.