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Max Sieben Baucus (born December 11, 1941) is the senior U.S. Senator from Montanamarker 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.

Baucus served in the Montana state legislature in the early 1970s before being elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1974. He became one of Montana's United States senators in 1978 and is the seventh longest-serving as of 2009.

Early life, education, and early career

Baucus was born in Helena, Montanamarker, and graduated from Helena High School in 1959. He attended Carleton Collegemarker in Minnesota for a year before transferring to Stanford Universitymarker, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1964, and was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. After graduating, he attended Stanford University's law school, receiving a Juris Doctor in 1967.

After finishing law school, Baucus spent three years as a lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.marker He moved back to Montana in 1971 to serve as the executive director of the state's Constitutional Convention, also opening a law office in Missoula, Montanamarker.

In November 1973, Baucus was elected to the Montana House of Representatives as a state representative from Missoula. In November 1974 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, and was re-elected in 1976.

United States Senate


Baucus was elected to the U.S. Senate on November 7, 1978 for the term beginning January 3, 1979, but was subsequently appointed to the seat by Montana's Democratic Governor Thomas Lee Judge on December 15, 1978 to fill the brief vacancy created by Senator Paul G. Hatfield's resignation. He has served consecutively ever since.

2002 election

The 2002 Montana elections got national attention when Baucus's opponent, state senator Mike Taylor, accused Baucus of having implied that Taylor was gay in a campaign ad. The ad was paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, not by the Baucus campaign. The ad, which alleged that Taylor had embezzled funds from the cosmetology school he once owned, showed footage from the early 1980s of Taylor massaging another man's face while wearing a tight suit with an open shirt. Taylor dropped out of the race and Baucus won with 63 percent of the vote.

2008 re-election campaign

Baucus sought re-election in 2008 in Montana, a state that has seen political change starting in 2004 when it elected Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer and then Democratic Senator Jon Tester in 2006 by a slim margin. Montana was the only state in the U.S. to switch a chamber of its legislature to Republican control in 2006. The legislative chamber had a one-seat Democratic majority that became a one-seat Republican majority.

Baucus raised a record amount of money for his 2008 re-election bid, 91 percent of which has come from individuals living outside of Montana. Similarly, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Baucus's 2008 campaign raised $11.6 million, only 13 percent of which came from Montana donors; the rest included millions from health care and other industries overseen by Finance and Baucus's other committees. The overwhelming ratio of special interest and out-of-state dollars to donations from Montana donors have raised questions:
So as Baucus and other lawmakers attempt to craft a bill that can smash through a virtual gridlock of interests, the awkward question lingers: To whom are they more attentive, their voting constituencies back home or the dollar constituencies who are at the Capitol every day?

As a result of Baucus's significant fund-raising advantage, in the week that he announced his intentions to run for re-election, he opened eight state offices — one more than he has official offices in the state. Baucus also announced that he had hired 35 full-time campaign staff members.

Baucus won re-election in 2008 by a 73-27 margin.

Political positions and actions

Baucus is generally viewed as a moderate Democratic member of the Senate, occasionally breaking with his party on the issues of taxes, the environment, and gun control. The Web site That's My Congress gives him a 23 percent rating on progressive issues it tracks. NARAL Pro-Choice America's political action committee endorsed Baucus during his 2008 election campaign.

Civil liberties

Baucus voted for a constitutional amendment prohibiting the physical desecration of the American flag in 2006. He also supported a bill to require online pornography sites to have a .XXX domain, together with Mark Pryor (D-Ark.marker) He supports the death penalty. The ACLU rated Baucus at 60 percent in December 2002, indicating a mixed civil liberties voting record.

Gay rights
In December 2006 the Human Rights Campaign rated Baucus at 67 percent. He opposes gay marriage, but voted against a proposed constitutional ban on it and has supported measures to curb job discrimination and hate crimes based on sexual orientation.

Gun rights
In 1999, he was the only Democrat to vote against an amendment by Frank Lautenberg (D-NJmarker) that sought to "regulate the sale of firearms at gunshows". Baucus can be frequently found hunting and fishing on public lands around Montana.

Voting rights
On February 26, 2009 Baucus and Robert Byrd were the sole Democrats to vote against District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, which provides a voting seat in the United States House of Representatives for the District of Columbiamarker and adding a seat for Utahmarker. The bill passed 61-37 with one Senator not voting.

Connections to Jack Abramoff

In December 2005, following the public corruption probe of Jack Abramoff — who was later convicted of fraud and corruption — Baucus returned $18,892 in contributions that his office found to be connected to Abramoff. Included in the returned donations was an estimated $1,892 that was never reported for Baucus' use of Abramoff's skybox at a professional sports stadium and concert venue in downtown Washington in 2001.

Economic issues

Baucus has a 74 percent pro-business voting record as rated by the United States Chamber of Commerce. He twice voted to make filing bankruptcy more difficult for debtors, once in July 2001 to restrict rules on personal bankruptcy, and a second time in March 2005 to include means-testing and restrictions for bankruptcy filers.

He has frequently visited places of employment within the state and has personally participated in activities that he calls "Work Days". He has also hosted economic development conferences.

In March 2005, Baucus voted against repealing tax subsidies that benefit companies that outsource US jobs offshore. On January 4, 2007, he wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling on Democrats to renew President George W. Bush's fast-track authority for international trade deals. In response, the Montana State Senate passed a resolution, 44-6, "that the U.S. Congress be urged to create a replacement for the outdated fast track system".

Environmental issues

Baucus's environmental record is mixed. He supports Democratic leadership in voting against oil and gas subsidies and ANWRmarker drilling, as well as by voting in favor national standards to reduce oil consumption and spur the use of hydrogen-powered cars. But he has voted against the CAFE fuel economy standards and on increasing federal funds for solar and wind power.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) gave Baucus a 100 percent rating, but only for the second session of the 110th Congress., but rated him at only 42 percent in December 2003.

Foreign affairs

He has opposed the United States embargo against Cuba and travel restrictions.

Iraq War
Baucus had voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, but has joined the Democrats in the Senate in demanding the phased withdrawal of the Levin Amendment (no firm deadline). He voted with a majority of Democrats against Senator John Kerry's amendment stipulating a firm deadline for withdrawal of American combat personnel from Iraqmarker.

On July 29, 2006, Baucus's nephew Marine Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus (September 24, 1977–July 29, 2006) was killed in combat in Al Anbar province. Phillip Baucus, a 28-year-old resident of Wolf Creek, Montana, had been a member of the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force. The funeral was the site of protests by members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

On January 10, 2007, the day of Bush's presidential address on his plan to increase troop levels in Iraq, Baucus spoke against the increases and called for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Support for Israel
Baucus is one of the Senate's largest career recipients of pro-Israel Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions, receiving $550,589 since 1989.

No trade war with Vietnam over fish
The Wall Street Journal had published an editorial on Baucus's attitude over Vietnam’s "tra" and "basa" pangasius, saying there was no reason for America to launch a trade war with Vietnammarker over fish. "He's dead right about a trade issue now percolating in Washington," said the newspaper on July 14, 2009. The article, entitled "Max Baucus's Fish Sense - Protectionism often hurts the protectionist", outlined this controversial topic in Washington and underlined the possibility that the US Department of Agriculture (USDAmarker) could effectively ban imports of pangasius fish from Vietnam, which are similar to US-produced catfish.

The ostensible reason for the move would be food safety and the USDA is considering whether Vietnamese fish should be subject to a stricter safety inspection regime. But the article said that there have been no reported cases of Vietnamese fish making American consumers sick and the proposed inspections would be onerous. It quoted Baucus as telling Congress Daily, "If we expect other countries to follow the rules and drop these restrictions, it is critical that we play by the rules and do not block imports for arbitrary or unscientific reasons."

Health care reform

Senate finance committee
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus 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. 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 private system.

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

Baucus admitted a few weeks later in June 2009 that it was a mistake to rule out a single payer plan because doing so alienated a large, vocal constituency and left President Barack Obama’s proposal of a public health plan to compete with private insurers as the most liberal position.

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. Critics have said that Medicare is already effectively a single-payer system.

Conflict of interest charges
Baucus has been criticized for his ties to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and has been one of the largest beneficiaries in the Senate of campaign contributions from these 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. 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.

Only three senators have more former staffers working as lobbyists on K Street, at least two dozen in Baucus's case. Several of Baucus's ex-staffers, including former chief of staff David Castagnetti, are now working for the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries. 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.

A statistical analysis of the impact of political contributions on individual senators' 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 only 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 Baucus of the significant campaign contributions that he has received from the health care industry further reduces the probability of his supporting a public insurance option from 30.6% to 0.6%.

In response to the questions raised by the large amount of funding he took from the health care industry, Baucus declared a moratorium as of July 1, 2009 on taking more special interest money from health care political action committees. Baucus, however, declined to return as part of his moratorium any of the millions of dollars he has received from health care industry interests before July 1, 2009, or to rule out a resumption of taking the same or greater health care industry contributions in the future. Baucus's 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.

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

Tax policy

Baucus voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2001. He has usually voted against repealing portions of that bill and against repealing more recent tax cut bills that benefit upper income taxpayers. In 2008, he voted in favor of permanently repealing the estate tax.

Ability to seek legal redress

He was one of 26 senators to vote against the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005.

Committee assignments


Electoral history

1974 United States House of Representatives

  • Max Baucus (D) 54.7%
  • Dick Shoup (R) 45.3%

1976 United States House of Representatives

  • Max Baucus (D) (inc.) 66.4%
  • Bill Diehl (R) 33.6%

1978 United States Senate

  • Max Baucus (D) 55.6%
  • Larry Williams (R) 44.4%

1984 United States Senate

  • Max Baucus (D) (inc.) 56.9%
  • Chuck Cozzens (R) 40.7%

1990 United States Senate

  • Max Baucus (D) (inc.) 69.8%
  • Allen C. Kolstad (R) 30.2%

1996 United States Senate

  • Max Baucus (D) (inc.) 49.5%
  • Dennis Rehberg (R) 44.7%
  • Becky Shaw (Reform) 4.7%
  • Stephen Heaton (Natural Law) 1%

2002 United States Senate

  • Max Baucus (D) (inc.) 63%
  • Mike Taylor (R) 32%
  • Bob Kelleher (Green) 3%

2008 United States Senate


Baucus has come under fire from critics calling him a beltway insider who no longer really lives in Montana and only occasionally comes to visit. Until 1991, Baucus owned a house in Missoula, where he practiced law for three years before running for Congress in 1974. He didn't own a home again in Montana until February 2002, when he bought half of his mother's house from the Sieben Ranch Company, the ranch started by Baucus's great-grandfather in 1897. The ranch company, and Baucus's mother, still own the other half of the house. Baucus has owned a home in Washington, D.C.'s upscale Georgetownmarker district since 1984. As of November 2007, the Missoulian newspaper reported he owned no other property in Montana.

In April 2009, The Associated Press reported that Baucus and his wife, the former Wanda Minge, are divorcing after 25 years of marriage.

Baucus has one son, Zeno, by his first wife, Ann Geracimos.

Baucus has completed a 50-mile ultramarathon and has crewed for female winner and fellow Montana native Nikki Kimball at the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run, which he hopes to run in 2009.

In popular culture

Baucus was featured prominently in musician Chris Stroffolino's 2009 song "HMO Jive and Public Option" which has been played on Thom Hartmann's political talk show on the Air America network during the summer of 2009.


  1. Baucus Watch: A key senator on health reform holds a listening session, Columbia Journalism Review
  2. Missoulian: Baucus's campaign fills coffers with out-of-state funds
  3. Seabrook, Andrea & Overby, Peter (July 22, 2009). "Baucus Linchpin In Health Care Talks." NPR, All Things Considered. Retrieved on July 22, 2009.
  4. Congressional website
  6. League of Conservation Voters 2008 Scorecard
  8. Sun Herald news report
  9. Montana senator’s nephew dies in Iraq
  10. DefenseLink: "DoD Identifies Marine Casualty"
  11. Senator's Nephew Mourned by Hundreds
  13. Max Baucus's Fish Sense
  14. Không có lý do gì về cá tra, basa Việt Nam
  15. US Senator warns against trade barriers to Vietnam’s fish
  16. US senator protests over ban on Vietnam’s fish
  17. Catfish fight could hurt beef producers
  18. MSNBC The Ed Show: Is Single payer on or off the table?
  19. Show Strong Support for Single-Payer Health Program." Sustainable Middle Class (citing 2009 polls by CNN and CBS News/NYT). Retrieved on July 22, 2009.
  20. Health care reform advocates get arrested while protesting, The Billings Gazette
  21. Police eject protesters from Senate health hearing, The Associated Press
  22. Make it the Baucus 13, Single Payer Action
  23. Herszenhorn, David (June 23, 2009). "Baucus Grabs Pacesetter Role on Health Bill." NYT. Retrieved on July 22, 2009.
  24. Baucus's Raucous Caucus: Doctors, Nurses and Activists Arrested Again for Protesting Exclusion of Single-Payer Advocates at Senate Hearing on Health Care, Democracy Now
  25. Top Industries: Senator Max Baucus 2003 - 2008
  26. Jack Cafferty, "Six lobbyists per lawmaker enough on health care?" CNN, 9/3/09.
  27. Eggen, Dan (July 21, 2009). "Industry Cash Flowed To Drafters of Reform; Key Senator Baucus Is a Leading Recipient." Washington Post. Retrieved on July 22, 2009.
  28. Roth, Zachary (July 21, 2009). "CORRECTED: Oops! Baucus Caught Out On Claim He Renounced SAYS HE RETURNED Health-Care PAC Dollars." TPM. Retrieved on July 22, 2009.
  29. Bozeman Montana Local News

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