Sen. Max Baucus has got to go!

As far as I’m concerned, this disgusting traitor should be thrown out of both the Democratic Party and the Senate for his screwing up the effort for health care reform this year!

File:Max S Baucus.jpg

Max Sieben Baucus (born December 11, 1941) is the senior U.S. Senator from Montana and a member of the Democratic Party. He is the current chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Finance and is influential in the debate over health care reform in the United States.[1]

Baucus is pro-choice and pro gun rights and for maintaining the District of Columbia’s non-voting Congressional representation. He supports free trade.

Baucus served in the Montana state legislature in the early 1970s before being elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1974. He has represented Montanans in the U.S. Senate since 1978 and is the seventh longest-serving senator as of 2009.

Health care reform

Senate finance committee

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus’s called the first Senate meeting of interested parties before the committee to discuss health care reform, including representatives from pharmaceutical groups, insurance companies, and HMOs and hospital management companies. The meeting was controversial because it did not include representatives from groups calling for single-payer health care.

Opposition to single payer health care

Advocate groups attended a Senate Finance Committee meeting in May 2009 to protest their exclusion as well as statements by Baucus that “single payer was not an option on the table.” Baucus later had eight protesters (among them physicians and nurses), removed by police who arrested them for disrupting the hearing. Many of the single-payer advocates claimed it was a “pay to play” event.[27][28][29] A representative of the Business Roundtable, which includes 35 memberships of HMOs health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, admitted that other countries, with lower health costs, and higher quality of care, such as those with single-payer systems, have a competitive advantage over the United States with its expensive private system.[30]

At the next meeting on health care reform of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus had five more doctors and nurses removed and arrested.[31][32][33]

Senator Baucus admitted a few weeks later in June 2009 that it was a mistake to rule out a single payer plan.[34] Senator Baucus said excluding consideration of a single payer plan was a mistake not because he supports it but because doing so alienated a large, vocal constituency and left Mr. Obama’s proposal of a public health plan to compete with private insurers as the most liberal position.[35]

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. AHIP has launched the Campaign for an American Solution, which argues for the use of private health insurance instead of a government backed program.[1] It has been pointed out that America already has a “uniquely American solution” that is a single payer health care system, it is Medicare.[36]

Conflict of interest charges

Baucus has come under criticism for his ties to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries while significant numbers of his own constituents lack health insurance and access to health care. The University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that Montana has always ranked near the bottom in cross-state and national comparisons of health insurance coverage. [37] Despite this backdrop in his home state, Senator Baucus has been one of the biggest Senate beneficiaries of campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries. From 2003 to 2008, Baucus received $3,973,485 from the health sector, including $852,813 from pharmaceutical companies, $851,141 from health professionals, $784,185 from the insurance industry and $465,750 from HMOs/health services, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.[38]

The only senators who received more campaign contributions from the health sector during the period from 2003 to 2008 than Senator Baucus were three major Presidential contenders, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain.[39] Baucus tops the list of recipients from business PACs. A 2006 study by Public Citizen found that between 1999 and 2005 Baucus, along with former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, took in the most special-interest money of any senator.[40]

Only three senators have more former staffers working as lobbyists on K Street, at least two dozen in Baucus’s case.[40] Several of Baucus’ ex-staffers with whom he is still close, among them, former chief of staff David Castagnetti, are now working for the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries.[39] Castagnetti co-founded the lobbying firm of Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, which represents “America’s Health Insurance Plans Inc.,” the national trade group of health insurance companies, the Medicare Cost Contractors Alliance, as well as Amgen, AstraZeneca PLC and Merck & Co. Another former chief of staff, Jeff Forbes, went on to open his own lobbying shop and to represent the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Advanced Medical Technology Association, among other groups.

Commentator Ed Schultz stated on his MSNBC TV show that Baucus has received “more money from pharmaceutical companies and insurance industry folks than any other Democrat in the Congress. Baucus got $183,000 from health insurance companies and $229,900 from drug companies”, and contrasting the presence of representatives from these groups with the absence of representatives from Single payer advocates he added wryly “May I remind you, they were at the table.”[27]

A statistical analysis of the impact of political contributions on individual Senator’s support for the public insurance option conducted by Nate Silver has suggested that Baucus was an unlikely supporter of the public option in the first place. Based on Baucus’s political ideology and the per capita health care spending in Montana, Silver’s model projects that there would be a 30.6% probability of Baucus supporting a public insurance option even if he had received no relevant campaign contributions. Silver calculates that the impact on Senator Baucus of the significant campaign contributions that he has received from the health care industry further reduces the probability of Baucus supporting a public insurance option from 30.6% to just 0.6%.[41]

The disproportionately large amount of political contributions Senator Baucus has taken from the health care industry over the years calls into question the impartiality of the Senator’s decisions in his capacity as Chair of the Senate Committee that controls healthcare legislation; this includes the Senator’s decision to exclude from the legislative process advocates of a single payer option which is vehemently opposed by the health care industry but has significant support from the public at large.[42] As noted above, Senator Baucus admitted in June 2009 that it was a mistake to rule out a single payer plan on the grounds that, among others, it alienated a large, vocal constituency.[43]

In response to the questions raised by the large amount of funding Senator Baucus took from the health care industry even as he exerted control over health care legislation in the Senate, Senator Baucus declared a moratorium as of July 1, 2009 on taking more special interest money from health care political action committees.[44]

Senator Baucus, however, declined to return as part of his moratorium any of the millions of dollars he has received from health care industry interests up until July 1, 2009 or to rule out a resumption of taking the same or greater health care industry contributions in the future.[44] Senator Baucus’ new policy on not taking health care industry money reportedly still permits him to take money from lobbyists or corporate executes, who the Washington Post found continued to make donations after July 1, 2009. [44]

A watchdog group found that in July 2009 Senator Baucus took more money from the health care industry in violation of the self-defined terms of his moratorium, leading the Senator to return the money.[45]

Senator Baucus timed the start of his self-imposed moratorium on July 1 to begin right after a Senate break in late June when Baucus held his 10th annual fly-fishing and golfing weekend in Big Sky, Montana, for a minimum donation of $2,500.[44]

And that is bad enough. Now I have found THIS:

The slick swindler: Senator Max Baucus, the man behind the health care bill
By Joshua Frank
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 17, 2009, 00:21

While still in high school, I had the pleasure of flying across the country to Washington, D.C., for a weeklong youth workshop on leadership and democracy. I remember the excitement I had knowing I was about to meet both of my Montana senators. Back then I was a proud registered Democrat. Having joined the party only two months earlier, the prospect of rubbing shoulders with a veteran of my party, I thought, was sure to be the highlight of the trip.

The swank décor of the hallways on the Hill mesmerized me as I winded through the legislative chambers. The bright carpet and gorgeous, slightly older interns meandering around the foyers made me think that perhaps politics had its subtle rewards. My intrepid journey from wing to wing led me to the bustling office of Montana Senator Max Baucus.

Max wasn’t in, however, so a cheery office assistant led me to a committee meeting that the senator was attending. “It will be just a few minutes,” she said, continuing to chat with me about the beauty and serenity of Montana. She had grown up in Great Falls or somewhere nearby, and missed the quiet open range and starry nights. I must have reminded her of what she was like before deciding to test the dirty waters of Washington politics.

A few minutes later, Max scurried out and shook my hand as if I were the elected official he had traveled a thousand miles to meet. “So glad to finally meet you,” he said. “How in the hell does he know who I am?” I thought. He didn’t, of course. He was just politicking.

Max wasn’t a good ol’ boy like Conrad Burns, his rival Republican from Montana at the time, who said during his first campaign in 1988 that he would help single mothers by “[telling] them to find a husband.” But Max was sleazy in his own right. His gaudy single-knot tie and wing-tip shoes caught my eye immediately. I remember wondering how long Mr. Baucus had been away from the Big Sky Country. I didn’t really care, though. He was the Democrat I had come to see.

I asked Max about Washington life, and we poked fun at Conrad Burns, whom I had met earlier in the day. Whereas Baucus’ busy overpacked office was full of citizens who seemed to give a shit, Conrad’s quarters were filled with wide leather couches and trophy animals that hung on his plush papered walls. We joked about Burns’ assistants who were advising him on how he should vote on specific legislation even though they had never even traveled to Montana. I thought to myself, “Man, Democrats really are a lot cooler than Republicans.”

It didn’t hurt that Max knew my uncle who ran a little grocery store in Lockwood, a small town outside of the city where I grew up. It made me think Max was one of us, a regular guy who represented regular folks. I let the used car salesman attire slide; the guy was all right.

My trip ended soon thereafter. I had met some interesting people, seen a lot of monuments and museums, and was enthralled with how the system actually worked. Or at least I thought I understood how it all functioned. The runners, the lobbyists, the rookies, the senior congressional leaders, the reporters, and oh those interns. I thought I had it down. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my family what I’d learned, whom I’d met, and how Senator Baucus knew my dad’s brother. I was even contemplating the best way for me to help his upcoming election campaign.

It wasn’t more than six months later that I was knocked to my senses. The fairytale had ended. I read in the newspaper that my buddy Max had supported the North America Free Trade Agreement a few years prior. By then, I was diving into local environmental issues and came across the effects of NAFTA and the senators who supported it. Baucus was at the top of the hit list. I couldn’t believe it.

Upon further exploration, I learned that Baucus sat on the influential congressional committees, including the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Environment and Public Works, and Finance and Joint Taxation. I learned how this man whom I had come to admire — for no real reason other than his bashing of a Republican — had succumbed to the interests of campaign contributors time and again. I found out how his seat on the Finance Committee scored him bundles of cash from the health care industry and some big corporations I had never even heard of, including JP Morgan, Brown & Foreman, and Citigroup. I knew these guys weren’t from Montana.

I also learned how my hero supported welfare reform, Fast Track, and President Clinton’s Salvage Rider Act, all of which blatantly raped the Montana forests I loved so dearly. A year later in college, I read an old article by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair in the Washington Post, which disclosed how actor Robert Redford had campaigned for Baucus by dropping letters in the mailboxes of elite Hollywood liberals, hoping to entice them to donate money to the Montanan for his astute convictions for environmental justice.

But as St. Clair and Cockburn put it so poignantly, “Across the length and breadth of Congress, it is impossible to uncover a more tenacious front-man for the mining, timber, and grazing industries . . . it was Baucus who crushed the Clinton administration’s timid effort to reform federal mining and grazing policies and terminate below-cost timber sales to big timber companies subsidized by the taxpayers.”

I was indignant. “How could he . . . ?!” I pondered. “If the Democrats aren’t saving our natural resources, who the hell is?”

That anger has festered in me to this day. Max Baucus may still be the most corporate –entrenched, conniving Democrat in Washington, and now Americans are getting a health care bill written by the health care lobby for the health care industry.

The dangling tassels on Max’s fancy wing-tip shoes will forever irk me. Those tassels and his decorative silk tie should have been the first sign that this politician didn’t represent regular folks. He was, after all, literally clad in the interests of the out-of-state corporations that lined his thick campaign coffers. I have hated the pretentious Wall Street pinstripes ever since Baucus’ sobering eye-opener.

I doubt that Max has ever hiked or driven through Montana’s Yaak River basin, where a massive forest service sale has destroyed critical grizzly bear habitat. I’d bet he’s never seen what the massive clear cuts have done to the region’s ecosystem, as tributaries have turned a pale yellow from mud and debris. And I cannot imagine Baucus ever apologizing for the legislation he supported during the Clinton years that’s to blame for it all. Many groups have challenged the illegalities of the outright pillage but all of these suits have been defeated or dismissed because the Salvage law gives the forest service “discretion to disregard entirely the effect on the grizzly bear.” All this from the party I once belonged to.

I can’t fathom that Baucus has sat down and spoken with the hundreds of poor single mothers in rural Montana who cannot afford to put their kids in daycare because they are forced to work at places like Wal-Mart where they earn little more than minimum wage. I am sure they’d love to tell him how grateful they are for their newfound careers and Clinton’s welfare reform that put them to work. Unlike many progressives who are preoccupied with the wars in the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, these Montanans have more pressing concerns. They are turned off by politics because they have trouble keeping food in the fridge and buying holiday gifts for their kids. For most of us, it’s a luxury to be politically active.

People continue to believe it’s only the Republicans who have undermined everything progressives have fought for. I once believed this to be the case. I hated conservatives for their outright disregard for the little guy. But my short voyage out east as a teenager turned into a life lesson, teaching me that political affiliation means little when talking about real life consequences of compromising ideals. I think this is a lesson we must all keep in mind as many look to the Democrats, naively hoping that they can save us from the strangle of Glenn Beck’s choke hold. Let’s not allow fancy rhetoric or party loyalty derail our need for real change or our push for single-payer health care.

Occasionally I wonder how my grandfather, who I am told was a staunch Democrat, would feel about all this. He wasn’t a flashy man, like the Democrats in Washington today, but a hard working North Dakotan farmer who, as the story is told, even detested his neighbor for being what he called “one of those damned Republicans.” Back then it was thought Democrats, although never progressive, stood for something genuine and were even elected to office because rural folk could discern the subtle difference between a donkey and an elephant.

I am convinced no such differences exist today, and I’m certain that my granddad would agree.

Joshua Frank is the author of “Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush” (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of “Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland,” published by AK Press in July 2008.

We need a real progressive Democrat to overthrow this sell-out! Heck, even a moderate Republican would be better than this guy! At least, we’d know what to expect from Republicans. When someone calling himself a Democrat stabs progressives in the back, he should be EXPELLED from the Democratic party!

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