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Tag Archive: Max Baucus

Breaking the limit: How the stealthy wealthy engaged in checkbook lobbying

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Striking down the limits on how many federal candidates and party committees an individual can shower with campaign cash--the main issues in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission--would not only open the door to bigger money in politics, it could also open the door to stealth lobbying campaigns on Capitol Hill by well-heeled donors. We know that because it already has happened, when limits were in place but not enforced. More than two decades ago, when Congress considered reforms that would put the brakes on hostile takeovers by corporate raiders, some of them used their checkbooks and their access to derail the effort without ever disclosing their lobbying efforts. Back in 1989, federal election law limited the amount an individual could give to candidates, parties and political action committees to $25,000. That year Texas billionaire and corporate takeover artist Harold C. Simmons contributed $45,500. That year Simmons, a staunch Republican now best known for seven-figure contributions to groups like Swift Boat Vets for Truth and American Crossroads, gave plenty to GOP pols. But, unusual for him, he also wrote $1,000 checks to Democratic stalwarts like Sens. David Boren, D-Okla., Paul Simon, D-Ill., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., as well as a $15,000 check to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Texas billionaire Harold C. Simmons

He contributed even more the year before--nearly $70,000, almost $45,000 over the limit. And he had plenty of company. Ronald O. Perelman, chairman of McAndrews and Forbes and, like Simmons, a corporate raider, gave $32,500 that year. Henry R. Kravis, whose firm Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts led a hostile takeover of RJR Nabisco that closed in December 1988, contributed $62,000 to federal candidates, PACs and party committees. They had good reason to. In 1988, Congress was considering legislation to address leveraged buy outs, or LBOs, through which high flying investors like Simmons, Perelman and Kravis acquired companies using mountains of debt. Most, but not all, raiders then sold off the most profitable divisions of the company, canceled pensions and siphoned off any excess money in the retirement fund, and laid off workers.

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Why four Dems opposed extending background checks

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Back in February, we at Sunlight made some predictions about the Democrats who would be most likely to defect on a gun vote, based on three factors: being up for a vote in 2014, having a high number of gun businesses in the state, and having a low Obama vote share. Here's what we wrote at the time about four Democrats we predicted would be most likely to oppose gun reform.

  • Max Baucus: Montana has 120 gun businesses per 100,000 people, highest in the country (according to ATF statistics). Only 41.8% of Montana voters supported Obama in 2012. (Tester, who just won re-election faces similar pressures)
  • Mark Begich: Alaska has 104 gun businesses per 100,000 people. Only 41.3% of Alaskans voted for Obama in 2012.
  • Tim Johnson: South Dakota has 66 gun businesses per 100,000 people. Only 39.9% of South Dakotans supported Obama in 2012.
  • Mark Pryor: Arkansas has 45 gun businesses per 100,00 people. Only 36.9% of Arkansans voted for Obama in 2012.

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Lobbyists save big businesses from fiscal cliff tax hikes

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Congress may have averted the fiscal cliff, raising taxes on households making more than $450,000, ending the payroll tax holiday which will take a bite from workers' paychecks, and leaving the bigger issues of raising the debt ceiling, reforming entitlements and addressing federal spending to the next Congress. While the fiscal cliff deal results in a tax hike for all workers, some special interests preserved their favorite tax breaks the old fashioned way: lobbying and contributing to members of Congress.

Most of the goodies sprinkled through the American Taxpayer Relief Act have been on the wish lists of big ...

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Wednesday: Sunlight Live to check in on super committee

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When the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or super committee, emerges from the shadows on Wednesday morning to hold its first public hearing in a month, the Sunlight Live team will be there to shine a light on who’s influencing the panel.

As the 12 members inch closer to proposing at least $1.2 trillion in federal cuts or new revenue sources before the end of November, little has come out about their ideas even as reports have surfaced about daily or twice-daily “unofficial” meetings.

More than 200 groups or people — with health care lobbyists leading the way ...

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Who’s watching the Super Committee?

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A big audience turned out yesterday for the second meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or the "super committee," as its 12 members asked questions of the first witness, CBO director Doug Elmendorf. The meeting was open to the public and there was live video on the committee's new website. 

While all the other cameras were focused on the committee members and witness, we turned ours 180 degrees to check out the crowd — and we want your help to identify the people keeping a close eye on this committee. Check out the photos below and the ...

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