Montana Politics

Senator Baucus’s Troubling Approach to Campaign Fundraising

Senator Baucus I’ve read Sunday’s Billings Gazette piece about Senator Baucus’s penchant for out of state, corporate fundraising a couple of times today, and each time, it seems more troubling.  The fact that so much (91% of individual contributions) comes from out of state seems even worse, when one looks at the Baucus defense.



Baucus hasn’t begun fundraising back home in Montana:

Baucus spokesman Barrett Kaiser said Montanans from each of the state’s 56 counties have donated to the senator.

“We haven’t kick-started the Montana fundraising effort yet, but you can expect to see folks coming out of the woodwork to support Max over the next 11 months,” Kaiser said.

Um…I don’t think “out of the woodwork” means what Mr. Kaiser thinks it means.  What’s more, why exactly hasn’t the Baucus campaign started fundraising in Montana? Are they hoping to cross the $10 million threshold first? I’d say that Baucus has raised enough from lobbyists for the time being. It might be easier to raise the money in enormous chunks from Goldman Sachs, but I’m afraid that doesn’t make it right.

The money chase is wrong, but Baucus won’t stop running after it:

Baucus spokesman Kaiser noted that raising money is a reality in modern-day politics.

“Max thinks there’s way too much money in politics,” Kaiser said. “And he’s supported every piece of real campaign finance reform ever put in front of him. But until the system is changed, he’s not going to unilaterally disarm.”

Russ Feingold has succeeded without obscene campaign contributions. Closer to home, Governor Schweitzer doesn’t take money from PACS. It can be done. All it takes is real leadership and the kind of courage that Senator Baucus has so rarely shown. If Baucus really believes in campaign finance reform, what better statement could he make than to act according to his beliefs?

All that money? It get results:

Kaiser added, “Max’s robust fundraising numbers are a testament to his ability to be effective. There’s a reason Max Baucus is so popular – he uses his seniority as chairman to be effective and get things done.”

This seems like a poorly chosen defense. For whom, exactly, are we to believe that Baucus has been effective? The logic of Kaiser’s remark suggests that Baucus is supported because he gets things done. That must be gratifying for the insurance companies, healthcare companies, and securities firms that make up such a large chunk of the Senator’s donations. It certainly was enriching for them when Senator Baucus led the giveaway to pharmaceuticals during Medicare reform and when he protected corporate behemoths against the threat of poor people when he helped “reform” bankruptcy law.

A lot of of us on the left raked Conrad Burns across the coals last year for his attitude about fundraising, as well as the source of much of that money. While no one will ever suggest that Baucus comes close to the level of sleaze that emanated from the Burns campaign, consistency demands a critical look at the people who contribute to his campaign, as well as his office’s attitude about it.

Money has corrupted the legislative process and cheapened the leaders who shape the laws. Isn’t it time for Senator Baucus to show that he is worth more than his campaign contributions?

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • This is an excellent post, Pogie. It sums up all the unease a lot of us on the left feel about Max. He only needs us (Montanans, that is) every six years. He’s really just a cleaner version of Conrad Burns.

  • Cleaner than Conrad? Not sure about that. Smarter staff for sure, and therefore less likely to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. But the guy is a shill if ever there was one. I’m tired of the media saying with a shrug of the shoulders, “Well, he’s Chairman of Finance, so of course all the banks will bribe him with millions in contributions.”
    And where are the Republicans? Hoping someone will catch Max with a dead girl or a live boy so they can swoop in and start competing for the millions to be had.
    As long as this attitude of pro-incumbancy big-money government continues, we will never begin to fix the fundamental problems in this government. People who rack up an impossible debt for their children to pay are the worst kind of scum. Why aren’t Americans incensed about that?

  • Let’s get real folks. Sen. Baucus NEEDS out-of-state donors. There aren’t enough big donors in Montana, of the Democrat persuasion, to fund a re-election campaign.

    And, Sen. Baucus (just like Sen. Burns), deals with issues affecting the nation as a whole, and not just Montanans. Because a person like Sen. Baucus doesn’t sleep on a sofa in his office, live in unwashed clothes for 5 days at a time, and then hitch a ride back to Montana on a west-bound freigt train to spend the weekend, doesn’t mean he is not to be trusted. I trust Max–I don’t always agree with him, but I trust him.

  • I think there is a middle ground between what you are describing and what Senator Baucus does. While he does certainly represent the nation’s interests, he is elected to represent Montana. I’ve not seen enough of the latter lately.

  • all that is necessary is to examine Baucus’ voting record to find Montana and American citizens are not a priotity for him in my opinion

  • I understand that the Freedom of Information Act apparently does not apply to the new farm bill and we Americans will never know what it does. Baucus touts the wonderful legislation Anyone know further on this

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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