Support for Baucus Healthcare Plan Brings in Donations


Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the key architect of one of several competing health care reform bills under consideration in Congress, isn’t up for re-election until 2014, yet his campaign committee has enjoyed an influx of contributions. In the third quarter of 2009, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee added more than $136,000 of campaign cash to his coffers, bringing his total for the year to more than $448,000. Overall, Baucus has more than $2.2 million in his campaign account, the majority of which is left over from his 2008 re-election bid.

During the third quarter, Baucus held lengthy deliberations with five other senators–including three Republicans–in an effort to arrive at a bipartisan bill. His campaign was deluged with contributions from out-of-state donors; surprisingly, the biggest source of individual contributions came not from pharmaceutical or insurance executives, but from a group of Wyoming individuals who told Sunlight they contributed to support his efforts.

A review of the latest disclosure report filed by the Baucus campaign shows that he received more than $56,000 in campaign contributions from individuals from a pair of Wyoming towns who attended a September fundraiser hosted for Baucus by Carl Knobloch, a retiree from Wilson, Wyo. Knobloch and his wife Emily donated $7,100, which included contributions to Baucus primary and general election funds. Overall, Baucus raised $114,000 from individuals in the third quarter.

Story Clark, a donor from Wilson, Wyo., who was at the fundraiser, said that she gave Baucus money because he was a senator from a neighboring state. Hes the closest Democrat we have who has similar concerns towards health care and conservation issues, the self-employed conservation consultant said.

The Knoblochs, who hosted the 100-person fundraiser, have mainly given to Republican candidates in the past. Since 2006, Carl Knobloch has given more than $140,000 and all but one donation, which went to Baucus for his 2008 election campaign, has gone to Republican candidates or to party committees.

Baucus’s campaign committee has received some money from individuals in Wilson and Jackson, Wyoming before, but there is a definite spike in the donations in the last quarter.

Since the Senate does not file campaign contribution documents electronically, we reviewed the paper documents and entered the numbers on a spreadsheet. We found a cluster of contributions made in September from individuals in Jackson and Wilson, Wyo., to Baucus’ campaign; after a few phone calls, we found individuals who confirmed that there was a fundraiser hosted by Knobloch.

An additional interesting detail in this specific subset of Baucus’s donors is that only in two cases have the individuals supplied his campaign with an employer. The others either state that they are retired, self-employed or there is a note from the committee that says they are trying to get this information. Baucus’ office hasn’t responded to calls or e-mail.

Baucus has also received about $22,000 from political action committees in this quarter from various interests ranging from telecom firms to the financial sector; PACs of lobbying firms also contributed. An earlier report by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics found that Baucus was one of the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from lobbyists and the interests they represent.