An army of lobbyists made up of ex-Baucus staffers


Don’t kid yourself, those former staffers are writing the actual legislation. That’s because we’ve cut so much money from congressional staffs, they don’t have enough independent, experienced staff members. So all that money we “saved”? It made the lobbyists more powerful:

WASHINGTON — Restaurant chains like McDonald’s want to keep their lucrative tax credit for hiring veterans. Altria, the tobacco giant, wants to cut the corporate tax rate. And Sapphire Energy, a small alternative energy company, is determined to protect a tax incentive it believes could turn algae into a popular motor fuel.

To make their case as Congress prepares to debate a rewrite of the nation’s tax code, this diverse set of businesses has at least one strategy in common: they have retained firms that employ lobbyists who are former aides to Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which will have a crucial role in shaping any legislation.

No other lawmaker on Capitol Hill has such a sizable constellation of former aides working as tax lobbyists, representing blue-chip clients that include telecommunications businesses, oil companies, retailers and financial firms, according to an analysis by LegiStorm, an online database that tracks Congressional staff members and lobbying. At least 28 aides who have worked for Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, since he became the committee chairman in 2001 have lobbied on tax issues during the Obama administration — more than any other current member of Congress, according to the analysis of lobbying filings performed for The New York Times.

“K Street is literally littered with former Baucus staffers,” said Jade West, an executive at a wholesalers’ trade association that relies on a former finance panel aide, Mary Burke Baker. “It opens doors that allow you to make the case.”

Like Ms. Baker, many of those lobbyists have already saved their clients millions — in some cases, billions — of dollars after Mr. Baucus backed their requests to extend certain corporate tax perks, provisions that were adopted as part of the so-called fiscal cliff legislation in January. Baucus aides who later became lobbyists helped financial firms save $11.2 billion in tax deferments and helped secure a $222 million tax benefit that is shared with the liquor industry.

Sean Neary, a spokesman for Mr. Baucus, said the senator had regularly rejected requests from those lobbyists for provisions benefiting their clients, like an appeal from one former aide, Pat Bousliman, now working as a wind industry lobbyist, to extend an alternative energy loan guarantee program that expired in 2011.

“See? I turn people down, like those hippies from the wind lobby!”

Mr. Baucus’s decisions are based on the merits of the policies, Mr. Neary said, not on who is advocating for them. “The fact is, oftentimes good policy can indirectly benefit someone,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.”

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