One Nation Under Debt

Published — August 10, 2011 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Max Baucus is known as a centrist dealmaker

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP


Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who has given liberals heartburn over the years, will be cast as a centrist dealmaker among his more liberal Senate colleagues on the Super Congress.

As the top Democrat on the tax-writing Finance Committee since 2001, Baucus has served three stints as chairman and will bring a host of finance and budgeting experience to the committee of 12. He has been in the pressure cooker before and was a self-described key author of the controversial health care overhaul last year. He attended the ceremony when President Obama signed the bill into law.

During the recent debt limit negotiations, Baucus defended Medicare in particular and said that cuts should come along with revenue increases. “Revenue increases in the ‘90s gave us 23 million new jobs, the longest economic expansion in U.S. history and a balanced budget,” he said.

Baucus has frequently collaborated with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on Finance who chaired the panel twice in the last decade. Baucus has defended his bipartisan approach, saying, “I care about results, and to get results, you have to work together and truly compromise.”

He is also a staunch defender of earmarks. In November, Baucus defended pork in an exchange with Republican Rep. Dennis Rehberg. Rehberg, who represents Montana’s sole current Congressional district, had challenged both Montana senators to ban the use of earmarks. Rehberg wrote, “Even in the Senate, Republicans have voted to forgo earmarks. That leaves you and Senate Democrats as the final holdouts of an antiquated spending culture where elected officials fight to spend more and more tax dollars.”

In a plainly worded response, Baucus said federal dollars amounted to 43.5 percent of Montana’s general fund in 2010. “Montana depends on the federal dollars you have long supported,” Baucus wrote. Accordingly, Baucus obtained more than $401 million in earmarks between 2008 and 2010, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Top PAC Contributors

  • PPL, an electric utilities company — at least $25,000
  • Express Scripts Inc., a pharmacy benefit manager — at least $25,000
  • American Society for Pension Professionals, the trade group for retirement plan professionals – at least $23,500
  • Target Corporation, the large retail chain — at least $20,000
  • Xcel Energy, a power company spread throughout a number of states — at least $19,000
  • New York Life Insurance Company, which provides life insurance and other benefits — at least $19,000
  • PACs gave at least $2 million to Baucus’ campaign account and his Glacier PAC between the start of 2009 and the middle of 2011.

Revolving Door:

  • David Castagnetti is a founder of Mehlman, Vogel and Castagnetti, a DC-based government affairs company. A former chief of staff for Baucus, his many clients include eBay and Genworth Financial
  • Michael Evans , Baucus’ legislative director from 1983-1990, is a lobbyist with K&L Gates whose clients include JPMorgan Chase and the ESOP Association (a trade association for Employee Stock Ownership Plans around the country)
  • Jeffrey A. Forbes is a former chief of staff to Baucus who has since formed lobbying firm Cauthen Forbes & Williams and now lobbies on behalf of clients such as health care companies Merck and United Health Group
  • Nick Giordano was legislative director for Baucus and now works at Ernst & Young, where his clients include Charles Schwab, Hartford Financial, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association
  • Patrick G. Heck , a former staffer for Baucus on the finance committee, now lobbies with K&L Gates for clients including JPMorgan Chase and the ESOP Association
  • Dawn Levy is a lobbyist with Cassidy & Associates. A former staffer for Baucus on the finance committee, her clients now include Hunt Oil and the American Bus Association
  • Greg Mastel served as both chief of staff to Baucus and chief economist for the finance committee before going into the private sector. Now with lobbying firm Dutko Worldwide, he works on behalf of groups including billing company Convergys and arms manufacturer Olin Corporation
  • Peter L. Scher is a former chief of staff to Baucus who also ran the vice presidential campaign of John Edwards in 2004. He was hired in 2008 to lead JPMorgan Chase’s government relations arm

Statements on Super Congress

  • Baucus, in a joint statement with Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and John Kerry, said he is looking “forward to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to address these issues in a balanced, pragmatic and practical way.”

Read more in Money and Democracy

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