The National Journal today reports that Max Baucus is losing staff at a rapid pace. How this exodus bears on the odds of a Baucus re-election in 2014 is anybody’s guess.
But we know how ordinary tax-paying citizens are faring.
His chief-of-staff has announced that he’s leaving to take a job with a “strategic intelligence firm.” Strategic intelligence firms are companies that use all sorts of channels, and sometimes espionage-like techniques, to get valuable information for which Wall Street investors will pay a king’s ransom. This is not “insider information” per se; it’s all legal, due to shady loopholes in the law. And one such type of “intelligence” is the advance notice, beloved by hedge funds and other Wall Street bigwigs, of how Congress might act on a matter under consideration. Someone with inside knowledge of how a vote is going to turn out, or whether an amendment will live or die, or even what type of language will be inserted into a bill, can sell this information to an investor who can then trade on the information (sell certain defense contractor stocks, for example, if it looks like Congress is about to vote to cut funding for fighter jets). And “intelligence firms” have made an industry out of gathering this type of up-to-the-minute information on bill status. 60 Minutes did an excellent piece on this scam, and you should watch it. We don’t know for certain that Max’s chief-of-staff will be doing this type of stuff, but it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be. Its not lobbying, either. It’s not asking anything of congress other than information.
And another top aide, Baucus’s tax expert on the Finance Committee who shuattled back and forth between Congress and the private sector for many years, is going private once again. Don’t be surprised if he ends up at a company that has benefited handsomely from tax breaks given out by the finance committee over the years.
It’s important to understand that this profit-making careerism has enormous negative repercussions for average Americans. Tax breaks for major corporations (the chief currency for revolving door specialists) come at the expense of ordinary taxpayers, who must make up the difference to fund government. Similarly, if you are a person of ordinary means and own stock in a company, any advance notice about some decision that your elected representative might take that will affect the price of your stock should be as available to you as it is to an investment banker who hires snoops to troll around Congress.
I hate to kick a guy when he’s down, but not if he is asking for it. It is really absurd that Max Baucus has now jumped on the anti-Citizens United bandwagon.
A few days ago, a Montana democrat forwarded to me an e-mail from Max Baucus, railing against “big money in elections,” and describing the urgency with which America must “stand up against it.” Then I was played a robocall from Baucus, saying mostly the same thing and urging voters to unite behind him in his quest to “help fight the influence of big money in Montana” or something silly like that.
It’s unfathomable that Max Baucus would chose to join the fray on this issue, for he is just about the last person on earth that should be decrying the influence of corporate money in American elections. Baucus is one of the most prolific raisers of corporate money in the United States Senate, if not United States Senate history. He has raised, literally, millions of dollars from the many powerful industries that must kneel before him when they want something from the Senate Finance Committee, of which he is chair–Banks, Drug Companies, the Media Industry, and just about every multi-billion-dollar interest that wants special treatment under the law. And, Baucus’ office staff have frequently walked back and forth through the revolving door, writing legislation that affects large industries, leaving to become lobbyists or corporate honchos for those same industries, and then returning later to write some more legislation.
When sufficient votes in the US Senate existed for a national public insurance option, that would have competed against private insurers and broken the health insurance oligopoly in America, Max brought the hammer down on it, doing the bidding of his insurance industry supporters. And his adviser who drafted the compromise that would become the turd known as the Affordable Care Act, which provides 30 million new patients for doctors and hospitals and insurance companies but does nothing to bring down the cost of healthcare–is a health industry executive who was sent over to Baucus’ office to write the bill.
Max is not without his victories for the state of Montana, including a history of work to strengthen protection for public lands such as the Rocky Mountain Front. And while I can certainly understand how Baucus might feel left out of the fun, with Bullock and Schweitzer gobbling up column space and cable news appearances on the Citizens United issue, Baucus simply has no business complaining about corporate money in our political system. It is simply beyond the pale. It is an insult to all Montana progressives, and you deserve and apology for it.