Monday, March 31, 2008

Sen. Baucus and his campaign spending

Montana Headlines has noted before that Sen. Baucus gets surprisingly little critical attention from the Montana press. Surprising because of the sheer amount of out-of-state cash he has been raising.

A recent article in the Billings Gazette does give it a little much-needed attention, and the picture it paints is not a flattering one of our senior Senator and the kind of big spending that he engages in in order to raise even more money.

Jack over at Western Word notes the large amount of money spent by the Baucus campaign on fancy restaurants and catering alone -- not surprisingly, most of it is expended back in Washington in the service of raising yet more campaign dollars. Less than 10% is spent in Montana.

Actually, we should stop being surprised about any of this. Most of the Senator's campaign staffers are also hired from outside Montana -- it seems that he can't find "paid volunteers" (an oxymoron if there ever was one) here in Montana to do whatever legwork his campaign wants done.

Of course, the Montana GOP up at state HQ reportedly does the lion's share of its printing out-of-state, as does the Rehberg campaign, so no-one is all that pure on the point of spending our campaign dollars in-state. Too bad -- it is something that otherwise could give the Montana GOP some mileage. But Baucus takes the out-of-state game to another level.

Montana Democrats in 2006 made the repeated point that Sen. Burns had been in Washington too long and had lost touch with Montana. Not surprisingly, with a Senator Baucus who has essentially not lived in Montana, ever, since graduating from high school, they are silent.

Why are they silent? Because Baucus has a "D" behind his name, so less is expected of him. Not an entirely irrational argument, actually, when you think about it.

It doesn't take a specialist in deep psychology to determine that Sen. Baucus is far more out of touch with Montnans than Burns ever was. So where's the outrage? Where is the determination to bring a fresh face to Washington?

Granted, the GOP -- state and national -- hasn't exactly done a great job of recruiting someone to run against Sen. Baucus. We've known that Sen. Baucus would be running for election for at least, oh, 6 years, right? One would think that this would be plenty of time to lay the kind of long-term strategy (for candidate recruitment, fundraising, and campaign planning) that would be necessary to unseat a multi-term incumbent.

It is commendable that Noelle Straub has written this particular Baucus story, but as we have pointed out before, the pattern of the Gazette and other Lee newspapers is to print an isolated story about Baucus, wait months until everyone has forgotten, and then maybe run something else. There seems to be no effort expended in trying to follow the money -- where do these millions come from and what legislation do the big donors and bundlers care about? And how has Baucus voted on those things? Do the interests of his big out-of-state donors align with the interests of Montana?

In order to get sustained, relentless, critical coverage à la Martz or Burns, Baucus would probably have to switch parties and become a Republican. Then we'd have weekly installments on his misdeeds and mis-steps from now until November.

That would be great, except that we'd have to take him.


Anonymous said...

I've had the same complaint about coverage of Baucus. So I've got to give Straub credit for this story. Hopefully it is just a start, however. As you note, the more interesting and important issue is that of who is giving him all that money, and what they hope to get in return.

Baucus has one of the most powerful positions in Washington, and one suspects that there's a lot of newsworthy stuff he does behind the scenes that we never hear about.

Montana Headlines said...

I do give Straub credit. As I have pointed out, it isn't that there aren't sporadic pieces about Baucus (or the goveror) -- it just doesn't compare to the sustained coverage that we had with Burns and Martz.

There is lots of great information in those articles -- why weren't they dragged out into a series of articles?