Careers Taking a Turn For the Worse

It’s surely a coincidence that Max Baucus’ retirement came so soon after an April 6 article by the New York Times‘ Eric Lipton about the twenty-eight former Baucus staffers who have been registered to lobby on tax issues during the Obama years. But it’s probably a testament to the self-regard U.S. senators tend to share that Baucus would be willing to rain on so very many parades. I mean, really, an awful lot of hungry trust funds and investment portfolios were going to be fed once the Senate eventually got around to the “tax reform” exercise that would decide the fate of many hundreds of billions of dollars worth of exemptions and deductions and credits that drive a major portion of the lobbying industry. Indeed, former Baucus staffers alone may be sizable enough community to generate some buzz for a new “reform” effort before he leaves the Senate.

More likely, they’re going to take a collective hit that could shake up the K Street pecking order for years to come. Here’s Matt Yglesias dancing on the border between crocodile tears and schadenfreude:

Any veteran legislator ends up creating a K Street trail of former [staffers], but Baucus was a golden ticket. As a Montana Democrat, his vote is less predictable and partisan than that of a Vermont or Massachusetts Democrat, so he’s open to persuasion on a wider range of topics. And as chairman of the Finance Committee, he leads a panel that’s subject to much more lobbying than other important committees such as Judiciary or Foreign Affairs. Ties to Max Baucus, in other words, have been some of the most lucrative around. Research shows that lobbyists earn wage premia for both issue expertise and connections but the connections premium is larger. So the former Baucus staffers working on health care and tax issues aren’t going to be out on the streets, but are going to substantially less hot commodities.

If someone ever develops a Mad Men-type television show focused on the lobbying biz, the Baucus Retirement will provide a major episode.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.