Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The suspense is over -- Sen. Baucus is running for re-election

So, our senior Senator is, after all, going to run for re-election. We were pretty certain that he was going to do so when he was aggressively shaking down all of those K-street lobbyists for big bucks with the help of Leo Giacometto. But you never know until the candidate actually pays the filing fee. So far, neither Republican candidate -- state Rep. Mike Lange or Kirk Bushman -- has formally filed, but they will certainly do so.

Here we are in a season of "change" and Montanans are having to decide whether to send Sen. Baucus back for his 6th term with the help of an unprecedented amount of out-of-state lobbyist money. Hm. I wonder how the Democratic Party in Montana is going to nuance their campaign theme: "Vote for change in Washington! Except when we say not to!"

Many will point to his senior position on the Senate Finance Committee as a reason to re-elect him. That's a good reason -- except that it's not. First of all, the Finance Committee doesn't decide on spending in Montana, as many mistakenly believe -- that's the Senate Appropriations Committee, and we lost our seat on that committee when we traded in Sen. Burns for Sen. Tester.

No, what the Finance Committee chair is really, really, really good for is raising lots of money from certain sectors -- namely, sectors that are regulated by decisions made by the Finance Committee. Why else did Baucus manage so easily and quickly to raise $9 million and counting, with nearly all of it from outside of Montana? Probably not because all of those corporate types are concerned about the needs of Montana. More likely because they expect to get something.

Actually, the fact that Sen. Baucus is a long-time Finance Committee member, and for years now his party's ranking member, is a pretty good reason not to re-elect him. After all, the Finance Committee is responsible for the solvency of things like Social Security and Medicare.

And is Social Security more secure today than it was when Sen. Baucus became the ranking Democrat on the committee? Hardly. It is more imperiled than it ever was, and it is hard to escape the notion that Sen. Baucus has been asleep at the wheel on the Senate Finance Committee -- fiddling while Rome burns (to mix metaphors.) In fact, America may thank Montana for voting out Baucus so someone else can head up that committee.

Sure, one can blame Republicans on that committee, too -- but what has Baucus done to boldly change course during his time as chairman? The only Senators who are willing to propose some bold ideas about entitlement reform right now are Republicans like Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint -- and unfortunately they are a minority even within their own party. But at least the Republicans have some people on the field -- Baucus hasn't even suited up yet when it comes to entitlement reform. Should we give him another 6 years on Finance? We're not convinced.

We realize that Sen. Baucus is the overwhelming favorite in this race, barring something really, really unexpected. Yes, he took money from Abramoff, he has Leo Giacometto helping him raise money from lobbyists, and he has been in Washington too long -- but we doubt that those slogans will be as persuasive to Montana Democrats in 2008 as they were when they used them against Burns in 2006. In fact, in the past we have gotten some indignant responses from Democrats when we have made these comparisons.

Well, hidden somewhere in Baucus's $9 million, doesn't there have to be at least an aggregate of a couple hundred thousand from people who are getting something pretty sweet from our senior Senator? Just taking a wild stab on the odds. And if Burns was there too long when running for his 4th term, then how much more so would that be true for a guy wanting to check in for a 6th? Just asking.

So what kind of really, really unexpected event would be necessary to make the race close? Oh, maybe something like lots of hard-hitting investigative journalism, going through that $9 million with a fine-tooth comb. Coming soon to a Montana newspaper near you.


Anonymous said...

Senator Baucus is going to win re-election. End of story. What about the Gov’s race? Word is spreading that Daines will be on the ticket with Brown. It’s also rumored that Daines was the 5th choice after 4 other candidates turned Brown down. Has Montana Headlines heard anything about this?

Anonymous said...

I'll believe it when I see it.

Anonymous said...

Two bad the U.S. Supreme Court threw out Montana's term limits law as it applies to federal office holders. That way good old Max would be on his way back to Montana for good. It also would have made Conrad keep his initial campaign promise of only 12 years in the Senate.
30 years in the Senate which followed two terms in the House is more than enough time for any Montanan. Max needs to come home and get reaquainted with this great state. And somebody with a bit more get-up and go should replace him. Honestly, outside of bringing home "pork" to Montana (like Conrad did), what has Max done for us? That's a rhetorical question by the way. As chairman of the Senate Finance committee (and ranking member when the GOP was in control), he sure hasn't stepped up to the plate to offer fixes for our out-of-control entitlement programs. There's an awful lot of hat here and nearly no cattle - quite a record for 34 years in D.C. It's time for Max to come home.

Montana Headlines said...

I'll respond to the Daines question first -- your comment is the first that MH had heard of Daines being on the ticket.

Daines would make an outstanding pick to be Lt. Gov. He is young, an energetic and tireless worker, self-starting (remember how nervous he made the Democrats with his "give it back" campaign about the surplus?) He has a network of contacts throughout Montana that he developed in the course of running Huckabee's campaign here in Montana.

Think about it -- he has been working on a statewide campaign already for months, something that most people Brown talked to probably hadn't done.

He doesn't have experience in elective office -- something that might have been ideal, but then the current governor didn't have experience, either.

Regarding him being Brown's 5th choice -- even if that is true, it is hardly a slur on Daines. Finding a high quality Lt.Gov. candidate can't be easy. Whoever take it on has to be willing to work for months on a state-wide campaign, be willing to quit one's job and move to Helena if you win -- and then be second in line, rather than governor.

Regarding Baucus, of course, any campaign to unseat Baucus is a very long shot. But even worse would be to leave it uncontested and to fail to point out the reasons why the Baucus reign should end, even if it likely won't.

And even though Montana newspapers don't have the resources to do real investigative journalism -- and keep following up on pieces like the one in the Gazette that was linked to in this piece, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't keep calling for them to do it.

Jack the Blogger at Western Word recently pointed out that the series of "investigative" pieces on Burns mostly amounted to repeating press releases from the Tester campaign and the Democratic Party. Not having analyzed that race, I can't comment, but it has the ring of truth to it, if indeed Montana newspapers don't have the resources to spend time researching these things.

Dave Rye said...

To the 2nd Anonymous:

Max wouldn't "come home." He's been in D.C. so long that D.C. is home. It's an occupational hazard. After his Senate days were over, Mansfield never came home. Neither did Lee Metcalf's widow. Nor John Melcher. Nor Dick Shoup. Ron Marlenee can't seem to decide whether he wants to live in D.C. or Bozeman, but he definitely hasn't gone back to Scobey. Even Conrad got a job with a D.C. lobbying firm rather than move back to Billings. The only recent long-timer who truly came home, to his credit, was Pat Williams who was also an honest liberal even when it wasn't fashionable. I guess we could include Arnold Olsen and Jim Battin who came home to become judges.

After high school, Max spent all his time on either the west or east coasts, except for living in Missoula just long enough to re-establish Montana residency and get into politics. Besides, his wife is from Tennessee, and Montana definitely isn't home for her.

Jay Stevens said...

Man, what's really funny is that, while you wax hysteric over the treatment of Conrad Burns -- in whose camp existed serious and real signs of corruption -- you use the same treatment to go after a Senator where no like accusations of impropriety exist.

I'm no big fan of Baucus -- ironically the worst criticism in the blogosphere of Max can be found at the b'birds and LiTW -- but I see no evidence of corruption.

It's one thing to say he's out of touch, too cozy with the interests that pad his coffers, too long a Senator, which may all be true, but to compare him to Burns is a low blow...

Montana Headlines said...

Hysteric? Now there's a term that fits Montana Headlines like a glove.

There must have been hard evidence of Burns wrongdoing, since the governor -- responsible for overseeing law enforcement in the state, and thus someone who would strictly follow the idea of "innocent until proven guilty" -- famously said that there was a jail cell waiting for Burns.

Note that this wasn't a leftie blogger waxing rhapsodic in a hyperventilatory manner. It was your governor.

Next to that, our comments are entirely unremarkable: that Baucus is "guilty" of coziness with lobbyists of questionable (according to you folks, anyway) character, "guilty" of being in Washington too long, and "guilty" of taking lots of money from corporations that his Finance Committee regulates.

You folks on the left said that Burns was guilty of crimes and was going to jail -- slam dunk. That drumbeat was worth at least 3000 votes, and lo and behold it turned out... not to be true.

He wasn't even indicted. It is interesting, Jay, that you now have revised this to "in whose camp existed serious and real signs of corruption."

When Baucus is submitted to the same kind of false accusations that Burns was, then I'll think about feeling guilty about pointing out the obvious: anyone who raises $9 million in out-of-state money -- especially when a healthy chunk is from industries his powerful committee regulates -- maybe has a few donors hiding in that $9 million who got something for their money.

Anonymous said...

Face it, the media in Montana loves Max Baucus. The only way any facts get out about him that shows the real story, will be because Montana bloggers will bring it to the public and the media’s attention.
His team is good. Now he has eight more offices for his campaign staff to promote him with the $13 million he had at last count. Every six years he can say he created some jobs – the jobs the folks get who work on his campaign. That’s about it.
Of course besides his campaign staff, he has his senate and finance staff that will walk a fine ethics line in campaigning for him while being paid from taxpayer money. Plus, we know that Lee Newspapers J. McKee and former Tribune Reporter G. Florio (now works for Lee Newspapers) and the Johnson brothers of the Tribune and Lee Newspapers will help all they can to keep Max in office.
The only things Max's people really have to worry about is Max's health (which should be a consideration considering his surgery) and a youth movement. Obama is bringing young people to the polls. Kirk Bushman can do the same here in Montana.

David said...

The media loves Max Baucus? The things you learn on the internet.

Montana Headlines said...

Well the media certainly isn't out to get Baucus. The overall impression seems to be that the media is friendly to Baucus.