But in order to get to Big Sky Resort, the site of the three-day hike/fish/horseback ride event, donors will have to drive Big Sky Highway past dozens of single-payer health care reform advocates who are steamed over the direction Congress is taking on reform.
Max Baucus, as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is the Senate’s point man on health care reform. For weeks hand-picked members of his committee have been meeting behind closed doors to hash out some a compromise on a reform bill.
At that same time, Baucus is busy raising money for his 2014 Senate campaign. Baucus’ people aren’t saying who’ll be at the event, but if you look at the list of industries that gave most to Glacier PAC in recent years you’ll find that health professionals, pharmaceutical/health products, insurance companies, and hospitals and nursing homes top the list. Organizers of Friday’s protest expect lobbyists and executives from those industries will be driving up Highway 64 on Friday.
“A lot of biggies show up at these events. When Max has a fundraiser, they show up. That’s what we’re trying to bring attention to,” said Gene Fenderson of Helena, a retired labor leader and co-founder of Montanans for Single Payer.
Fenderson, one of the chief organizer of the rally, said protesters will line the road holding signs with slogans that read “Buy Back Baucus” as well as large scale faux checks that read “Max — A seat at the table. What does it cost? $4 million. Buy Back Our Senator!”
According to the invitation for Camp Baucus, the event is billed as “a trip for the whole family” where attendees will “enjoy Big Sky’s fly fishing, golf, horseback riding and great hiking.” The minimum “requested contribution” to Glacier PAC — Baucus’ primary political action committee — is $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for PACs.
Baucus’ people say the event isn’t as unseemly as Fenderson and other activists make it out to be because A) Max can’t be bought, B) Camp Baucus was scheduled long before Congress got tangled up in health care reform negotiations, and C) political fundraising is a necessary part of politics.
“Max’s number one priority is crafting a health care bill that lowers costs, improves quality and can pass the U.S. Senate,” said Baucus spokesman Ty Matsdorf. “He is keeping his eye on the ball and staying focused on the task at hand to help the thousands of Montanans who are being crushed by the high cost of health care.”
Reform advocates say the fact that Baucus has taken more money from the health and insurance sectors than any other Democrat in Congress — more than $3 million from the health and insurance sectors from 2003 to 2008 — should disqualify him from leading reform efforts in the Senate.
Fenderson said it’s inappropriate for Baucus to hold an upscale fundraiser with lobbyists from the health care sector at a time when his committee is in the process of drafting a national health care reform bill.
“We don’t get the money from the corporations to bring forward our position, so this is the way we have to do it,” Fenderson said.
Here’s a link to the “action alert” for the Camp Baucus protest.