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Why Does Max Baucus Take This Money?

PH2009072003364.jpgDan Eggen has a nice piece today tracking the money flowing from the health-care industry to the senators tasked with reforming and regulating it. The lead recipient of industry dollars? Max Baucus. Charlie Rangel, Chuck Grassley, and Dave Camp have been throwing successful fundraisers as well.

Does all this money influence Baucus's decision-making? Of course not, says spokesman Tyler Matsdorf. Baucus "is only driven by one thing: what is right for Montana and the country." That's two things, but so be it.

Grant Matsdorf's premise for a moment. 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.

Photo credit: Melina Mara -- The Washington Post.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 21, 2009; 11:03 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: Thinking Clearly About Health-Care Spending

Comments

"why does max baucus take this money?"


a wise commenter once posted on your blog:
"you cant shake hands with the devil, and say you were only kidding."

Posted by: jkaren | July 21, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

if for one minute you think these politicians do this for nothing but greed there is a bridge in brooklyn,ny i am trying to sell.

Posted by: SISSD1 | July 21, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"Does all this money influence Baucus's decision-making? Of course not, says spokesman Tyler Matsdorf. Baucus "is only driven by one thing: what is right for Montana and the country." That's two things, but so be it."

Of course not, our corporate sponsors are just really generous and like Max and fly-fishing. Its a tax-write off really.

Posted by: Castorp1 | July 21, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I don't think you can automatically imply that lots of donations equal siding with Republicans on health care reform. Rangel has gotten 1.6m, and he'd go to single-payer if he could. And I think that Montana's status as a small-money state and Baucus's political popularity there would tell us that he doesn't really need to money, so it probably doesn't influence him. The truth is that Baucus was already part of the "corporate" wing of Democrats, and these donations just reflect that reality.

www.nationaltype.org

Posted by: smhjr1 | July 21, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

ummm..."It's one of the smallest states in the country." ...Montana is the 4th largest state. It doesn't have many people mind you...but it's pretty big...

Posted by: Skinny8 | July 21, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

The problem is that even if these guys THINK the money doesn't influence them, it's impossible for it not to. The money will color their judgment even if they try not to let it.

Posted by: SteveCA1 | July 21, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Worldwide Americans do not even rank in the top 25 for education - this must be who he is setting the tone and a theme for.
Steele noted his speech was 'set a tone and a theme'- used the word "experiment" 30 times in his speech!
"Look I don't do policy," Steele said. "I'm not a legislator.
30 times in his speech?
Why do you think that was?
Socialism- Worldwide Americans do not even rank in the top 25 for education - this must be who he is setting the tone and a theme for.
Big Bad Government – C- Street Deacon Coburn advised Ensign of Nevada how to bribe his mistress's family- will now define what our country needs and does not need. Coburn- the Doctor, who was under Medicaid Fraud allegations in OK.

Early June ‘09- .

Deacon Coburn was asked on C-span to define ‘Socialism’
People should look that up – Cspan.org

Shall we ask the CNN Republican strategist Alex Castellanos?

Mortgage brokers- Health insurance brokers

Check out the growth of these two types of 'brokers' from 1994 to 2006.

Just like the last Sec of DHS - Leavitt

The Leavitt Group out of Utah - the largest Healthcare Broker in the state of Utah!
The Chairman of Chamber of Commerce was on c-span and would not answer how many insurance companies he represents.

He was asked numerous times-

He would not answer.

Posted by: sasha2008 | July 21, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

notice the do nothings in congress do not speak of France or Japan or Switzerland for example

how ignorant do they think the American people are

can any of you trolls answer this

how ignorant are you - country first and all

Worldwide Americans do not even rank in the top 25 for education - this must be who he is setting the tone and a theme for.

Citi Financial terminated at least 96,000 jobs- those were the phony financial game jobs created by the Do- Nothing Congress and Bush and those tax cuts.

How many can afford COBRA Insurance when they lose their job? The Stimulus money that has been spent already has paid up to 75% of the premium for those that lost their jobs.

'STIUMULUS' $$$ ARE CONTRIBUTING to Cobra- an oligopoly in itself- like OPEC!

Do you country first folks know which country has the fastest broadband?

It is not the USA- !!

Country First !

Oh yea!

Remind us again- 1994-2006 - what have the oarty of no do nothings done for America?

The six terms for Baucus- what has he done for your country?

Healthcare?

Telecommunications?

Energy?

Education?

Educate us - please!

Posted by: sasha2008 | July 21, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

What does he do with the money? Is he spending it all or does he wind up re-donating it to other candidates?

Also, my take -- in response to some of the commentors -- is that he may or may not be influenced by the actual donation. But, it is not necessary to think that he is.

If industry execs even get a chance to tell him their case its worth well over $2500. Its probably worth well over $2500 just so the senator will associate your company or cause with an actual human being and not a faceless entity.

For large enterprises $2500 is a trivial amount of money and moderate senators have a lot of power.

Posted by: karlsmith | July 21, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

If you vastly increase the influence of the federal government over the health care industry, the problem of the health care industry pumping money into Congressional pockets is going to get worse. Deal with it.

Posted by: ostap666 | July 21, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

McCain campaigned on Healthcare Reform

Clinton campaigned on Healthcare Reform

Obama campaigned on Healthcare Reform

Where were these people?

Now we have people from C- Street deciding what belongs in our healthcare system-

C-Street Coburn- throwing accusations at Sen Sheldon Whitehouse implying lobby influence on Whitehouse during healthcare mark up-

Really Coburn? How many guns are allowed at your C-Street residence in DC?

How is that extortion for Ensign's mistress going?

Is that why we need to slow down?

Posted by: sasha2008 | July 21, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Why does he take the money? Are you kidding me? For these characters its NEVER enough! And THIS is what's controlling health care policy! Fly fishing anyone? God help us all!

Posted by: mybandy | July 21, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

It's called free speech and it's a check against mob rule.

You never care when people give large sums of money to hysterical populist causes. Viva Chavez!!!

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | July 21, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"a check against mob rule"

Hilarious. Whatever helps you sleep at night, Bucko.

Posted by: csdiego | July 21, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

He doesn't need the money? How old are you, Ezra, 17? Baucus is the only one you SEE taking money. This is very much about a number of people becoming hugely wealthy.

Posted by: truck1 | July 21, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like a clear Quid Pro Quo to me.

The big insurance companies give money to Senator Max Baucus and in return he kills the legislation they don't like.

Any questions?

Senator Baucus, if you or a member of your staff is reading this, prove us wrong. Do the right thing and support a voluntary public health care option for those citizens who want one. If you don't, it will be obvious to all Americans that you were influenced by the money you took from the insurance companies.

Posted by: snesich | July 21, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Where's the story that identifies which insider lobbysts are working with congressional & senate staff in actually writing the legislation - ensuring it benefits their clients? It's time for some of that old fashioned investigative reporting that once defined the WPost.

Posted by: emoran1 | July 21, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Yes it affects him. He's gathering money for other Democrats to defend their seats or gain new ones.

This article is dishonest at its core.

He should have shut off the flow of money; it will be obvious as to whether he was corrupted or not but it will be too late by then. Shabby job WaPo.

Posted by: theobserver4 | July 21, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

These politicians that put campaign funding, personal gains and interests over the welfare of the American people are a disgrace.
The politicians that put party first, win at any cost over integrity, doing the job they were elected to do and looking out for us and our country are as unAmerican as you can get.
It is sad and frightening that these people have control over what happens to our country. We must not let them win!!

Posted by: kathlenec | July 21, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I'll breathlessly wait for Ezra's column on the amount of money Rangel, Waxman and Pelosi (none of whom NEED the money) take from organized labor, which has its own health policy axes to grind.

Posted by: FreeMas | July 21, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Clearly we dirty f hippies who actually care about the future of the country need to learn fly fishing, so one of us can develop a relationship with the Senator who has the single greatest influence over healthcare.

After all, it's not just about the money. This is who Baucus spends his recreation time with.

As he does this, Baucus is either a plain old capitalist elitist, or he is a secret Democrat and the most insincere man on the planet.

Posted by: Dollared | July 21, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Baucus has used the term "uniquely American solution" to describe the end point of current health reform and has said that he believes America is not ready yet for any form of single payer health care. This is the same term the insurance trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), is using.

Posted by: WhatHeSaid | July 21, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Invariably, politicians talk (and probably think) as if the conflict with lobbyists is "if I am in a situation in which the best in interests of the country are to do X, and this lobbyist group wants me to do Y, will I do X or will I do Y"? And there probably are circumstances where politicians have been in that situation and done Y, enough so that most politicians can look at that as corruption, and compare themselves favorably to those corrupt few who would go against the public interest in favor of special interests.

But the real reason industry contributes that much to get face time with a powerful Senator is not because they hope to use that money to convince him that, even though the public interest is in favor of X, he should do Y for the money. It's buying that time to argue that Y is what is actually in the public interest. And that selection bias - the fact that Baucus interacts with representatives of pharmaceuticals and insurance much more than health care advocates - is far more subtle, and therefore far more insidious, than outright corruption.

Posted by: satya232 | July 21, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Rangel may be an exception to the rule. But as for the rest, especially Baucus, it would be ludicrous to believe they are not influenced by the money.

This is how government works in this country: Corporations via lobbyists influence the writing of regulations and laws. Whether it be insurance, defense, pharma, or whatever, the underlying motive is the profit for the corporations.

This healthcare "debate" is perhaps the best example of the extent to which the deck is stacked against the people (who people are supposed like Baucus are supposed to represent).

Posted by: dougd1 | July 21, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

If you don't think all this palm greasing doesn't influence policy decisions, the better question would be why is the health care industry shelling out? In a democracy, this influence peddling ought to be illegal. The media and the politicians are being bought and the American people are being sold. They won't be happy until we're all slaves.

Posted by: SarahBB | July 21, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

The book and the movie a "Civil Action" concern the town of Woburn, MA whose drinking water was being polluted by 3 factories and whose children were dying of leukemia, and it concerns a young lawyer who tried to get funds from one of the companies so that the people could afford treatment for their children.

The company hired an old semi-retired lawyer who happened to be the teacher of the judge in the case. Robert Duvall plays this old lawyer in the film.

At one point, depositions are being taken from the sick kids and the parents of those who have died. As you may imagine, it is heart rendering. As the people are leaving the room, Robert Duvall's character turns to one of his associates and says in the most chilling voice, "This testimony must never see the light of day." And it didn't.

I can envision a similar scene where the moguls of the insurance industry are hearing the facts on heath care. I can hear the chief PR person saying to his associate, "These facts must never see the light of day." And they haven't.

Posted by: lensch | July 21, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Two words... BFF.

Posted by: No11 | July 21, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Well, he wouldn't hold a fundraiser unless he needed the money or planned to use the money. He certainly needs money to run an election campaign. Even if he's a shoo-in and the media is cheap he still needs to travel around Montana and shake hands. But more likely he needs the money to give to other candidates who HE can then influence, something needed to bring the bacon back home to Montana, which ranks 44th in population of the 50 states, meaning there is not much representation in the House for Montana, so Baucus is very important to Montana as a Senator especially given his seniority. He's a man who needs funding to do the job for his state and the healthcare industry is a group he can safely tap without angering his republican constitutients and has low perceived impact at home. If you want this to change, get the people in the state of Montana riled up about healthcare costs and insurance who can then start asking Baucus some hard questions about taking healthcare money.

Posted by: bevjims1 | July 21, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Instead of the teeth gnashing about what lies in Max's heart, I suggest folks take action:

http://tinyurl.com/mx6rdl

Watching a few Democratic senators slowly throw away what the party has been trying to do since Truman should honestly be embarrassing to every Democrat.

Posted by: Chris_ | July 21, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The first thing that came to mind when I saw how much Baucus received and is receiving from the health care industry is watching him declare single payer was off the table and would not enter into any of the discussions during his committee meetings. The next thing was his having the physicians from Harvard arrested for standing up in the committee meeting when they asked to testify for single payer.

Money buys access. Lack of money buys arrest and anonymity.

Posted by: sauerkraut | July 21, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

We Montanans have been worried about Max Baucus's apparent corruption for a long time. He's been in the Senate far too long and really cares very little about the needs of ordinary folks here. We did succeed in getting rid of Republican Conrad Burns our even more corrupt Senator who took more money from Jack Abramoff than any other member of Congress, but Baucus glided to another term because Montanans mistakenly believe it's a good thing to have long-serving Senators in Washington. That belief stems from our most famous Democratic Senator, Mike Mansfield, who was a man of unimpeachable integrity and honesty. Sadly, Baucus is no Mansfield although he thinks he is. We know that Baucus is firmly in the pocket of the doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical and health insurance companies who bought him lock stock and barrel years ago. We also know he doesn't give a tinker's damn about the health care of ordinary people in America since he's got his. It's sad, but that's the way it is.

Posted by: dsrobins | July 21, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Insurance lobbyists give Baucus money that he doesn't really need. WTF? Montana might be 4th in size but population-wise, it's deserted. Do lobbyists think Baucus and Montana are under the radar and people won't notice what's going on? Baucus should not even think of derailing this healthcare reform nor even slow it down with an eye towards killing it. The people have waited for a long time and they are not in a good mood. "we can't afford it (healthcare)" is just an excuse.

Posted by: mstratas | July 21, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

This whole health care fiasco should be a wake up call for the American people. The feeding frenzy of lobbyists and corporations plying Congress with contributions, trips, favors, gifts, and promises is enough to make one sick. Our democracy is a joke. Campaign contributions are bribery, not free speech. Speech is sound generated by vocals chords, not checks and cash slipped from one person's pocket to another.

Republicans defend the idea that money is speech as if their lives depend on it. Democrats go along with it because they couldn't compete in the media if they didn't take the money also. If we don't find a way to pubically fund campaigns, along with limiting their length and scope, our democracy will self destruct in an orgy of corruption and cynical neglect.

Posted by: Chagasman | July 21, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

It is all well and good to point fingers at Baucus, but who is kidding who. What about the President's refusal to accept taxes on current health insurance policies (though everyone seems to agree it is the right thing to do) except the Unions (who are the President's biggest donors). Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

The reality is, let the dollars fly, if they American people are doing their job, it wont' make a difference. Lets keep our elected officials honest by voting them out and who cares how much money they pocket.

Posted by: BBB4 | July 21, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

We allow congressmen to receive money from corporations that they can use for buying their seat for the next term, spend as they want to and take the rest when they retire.
They have to reciprocate to the sponsors nobody gives away money for nothing.
It is illegal in any other situation and it should be illegal for congress too.
Bribery is only legal when it is called lobbying.
Why are we surprised?

Posted by: evelyn3091 | July 21, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

We allow congressmen to receive money from corporations that they can use for buying their seat for the next term, spend as they want to and take the rest when they retire.
They have to reciprocate to the sponsors nobody gives away money for nothing.
It is illegal in any other situation and it should be illegal for congress too.
Bribery is only legal when it is called lobbying.
Why are we surprised?

Posted by: evelyn3091 | July 21, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

What do you mean "he doesn't need the money"? What if ever got a competent opponent? Huh? What then? Right I forgot this is Montana!

Posted by: ZippyinAnnapolis | July 21, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Mortgage brokers- Health insurance brokers

Check out the growth of these two types of 'brokers' from 1994 to 2006.

Just like the last Sec of DHS - Leavitt

The Leavitt Group out of Utah - the largest Healthcare Broker in the state of Utah!
The Chairman of Chamber of Commerce was on c-span and would not answer how many insurance companies he represents.

He was asked numerous times-

He would not answer.


Posted by: sasha2008 | July 21, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse


hey genius,

I'm a health insurance broker. Are there those that "don't belong" in this indsutry because they bring little to the table, YES. But that's true of almost every industry.

I've saved my clients MILLIONS in cost on a company wide basis as well as helping to keep my clients from medical bankruptcy from either insurers who won't cover things, medical doctors that OWN surgery centers yet don't explain this to their patients and increase their costs and negotiate with carriers to get the best rates possible.

So before you go BASH an industry maybe you should think first.

oh and when you get your public plan wish I hope you have NO CLUE as to how the plan works, what the best plan for you is and how to navigate through the system.

I'll be the one YOU SHOULD HAVE CALLED.

Posted by: visionbrkr | July 21, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Mortgage brokers- Health insurance brokers

Check out the growth of these two types of 'brokers' from 1994 to 2006.

Just like the last Sec of DHS - Leavitt

The Leavitt Group out of Utah - the largest Healthcare Broker in the state of Utah!
The Chairman of Chamber of Commerce was on c-span and would not answer how many insurance companies he represents.

He was asked numerous times-

He would not answer.


Posted by: sasha2008 | July 21, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse


hey genius,

I'm a health insurance broker. Are there those that "don't belong" in this indsutry because they bring little to the table, YES. But that's true of almost every industry.

I've saved my clients MILLIONS in cost on a company wide basis as well as helping to keep my clients from medical bankruptcy from either insurers who won't cover things, medical doctors that OWN surgery centers yet don't explain this to their patients and increase their costs and negotiate with carriers to get the best rates possible.

So before you go BASH an industry maybe you should think first.

oh and when you get your public plan wish I hope you have NO CLUE as to how the plan works, what the best plan for you is and how to navigate through the system.

I'll be the one YOU SHOULD HAVE CALLED.

Posted by: visionbrkr | July 21, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

are people really on here thinking that Obama and the rest of the liberal democrats AREN'T in bed with the lawyers and labor unions that handed him the election???

Pot meet kettle.

Posted by: visionbrkr | July 21, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

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