Getting Senator Max Baucus (D. MT) to do the right thing can be a difficult task, especially when it comes to gun control:


Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, another Democrat who is up for reelection in 2014, also signaled he is not backing the Reid bill yet.

“I am focusing more on enforcement of current law,” Baucus said. “I am going home [on Saturday.] I’ll talk to Montanans and see what my employers want.” - Politico, 3/23/13

Here's a little background on info on the current gun control bill being worked on in the Senate:
Sen. Joe Manchin and the National Rifle Association are quietly engaged in private talks on a proposal to broaden background checks on purchasers of firearms.

That the NRA is even talking with Manchin suggests there’s at least some room for negotiation for the group — despite its public posture against tougher gun laws, several sources say.

And if successful, a Manchin-NRA deal could draw in enough Republicans and red-state Democrats to defeat an expected GOP filibuster of the overall gun control bill when it hits the floor next month.

The move marks a new approach for the conservative West Virginia Democrat and could prove a pivotal moment in the gun control debate. For several weeks, the NRA ally and hunting enthusiast has been trying to win over GOP senators, but so far many Republicans have been squeamish for a variety of reasons — namely over calls to require retailers to keep background check records.

But if the NRA stays neutral and decides not to “score” a vote for a Manchin plan on its annual scorecard, Manchin — and the overall bill — would have a much better chance.

Yet the Manchin-NRA negotiations are significant because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has demanded that any gun control bill approved by his chamber “must” include a plan to make background checks tougher. Reid said the Senate would vote in April on a controversial assault weapons ban, a prohibition on high-capacity ammunition magazines, mental-health screening, as well as a bipartisan gun trafficking measure. - Politico, 3/23/13

Baucus voted for the 1994 assault weapons ban and it nearly cost him his re-election chances in 1996 so of course Baucus is hesitant to support an assault weapons ban.  But because his approval ratings in Montana aren't stellar right now, he's also a little hesitant to back universal background checks, even though nearly 88% of the American people support them.  Baucus did vote against the assault weapons ban in 2004 and has an A= rating from the NRA.  But there might be one man who could get Max Baucus on board with this:


Jim Messina, who is leading the effort by Organizing For Action to press for tougher gun laws, has a problem: his old boss.

Messina, when he worked with Baucus, was known to be able to speak for the senator. When President Barack Obama took office, Baucus recommended him for a high-level position. From that perch, Messina ran health care reform negotiations effectively out of Baucus' office. Baucus moved the legislation through his Finance Committee while picking up the vote of Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine, giving the bill the bipartisan sheen that Obama and Messina craved.

“Messina is the Baucus whisperer. If anyone can reach out to Baucus on a tough issue like this, while still being mindful of Montana politics, it is him,” said a Senate aide.

But that alliance hasn't been enough to move Baucus on guns. "I understand these are tough political votes ... but it's also the right thing to do, and I think there's a real political price to be paid for opposing something like a background check when over 90 percent of the country supports it," Messina said during an appearance on MSNBC Thursday. Obama has dubbed people who oppose the proposal "the 10 percent." - Huffington Post, 3/28/13

Messina and Baucus go way back and even have a father/son like relationship.  Messina has helped Baucus win some of his toughest races, even having to resort to some pretty dirty tricks, like this:


Obama campaign manager Jim Messina was behind an infamous 2002 anti-gay ad that aired in Montana, according to a profile by Joshua Green in Businessweek.
The ad was run against Mike Taylor, a Republican challenger to Senator Max Baucus of Montana.

The spot features porn music and decades old footage of Taylor's men's cosmetic line, suggestively edited to end with an apparent crotch grab.

"Mike Taylor: Not the way we do business in Montana," the voice over says, ostensibly referring to a loan scandal though in reality raising questions about Taylor's sexual preference.

Messina, according to Baucus, was responsible for the controversial message.
"Jim is tough,” Baucus says. “I’ll never forget when he showed me that ad. We were in Bozeman in a motel. The curtains were drawn. He said, ‘Max, what do you think?’ They were afraid I wasn’t going to like it. I loved it!” - BuzzFeed, 6/15/12

Pretty low stuff but it shows that Messina has been dedicated to helping Baucus win some tough races.  Since then, Messina has received praise for his work to help advance gay rights:
"With the exception of the President himself, the LGBT community has had no greater champion or advocate within the administration than Jim Messina," Joe Solmonese, HRC president and Obama campaign's national co-chair emailed BuzzFeed. "In the fight to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I had the honor of working by Jim's side throughout the entire process. No one that I know was more proud of that accomplishment or more visibly moved on the day of its passage than Jim. I'm proud to call him a friend." - BuzzFeed, 6/15/12
Now Messina knows that trying to push Baucus too hard on background checks would be a big mistake and could end badly but if Messina can find a way to convince Baucus that a vote for background checks won't hurt his chances of re-election, Baucus could finally get on board.  But if there's one thing that could persuade Baucus, it's money:


With red state Democratic Senators remaining skittish about embracing Obama’s gun proposals, at least two top Democratic donors are stepping forward and vowing to withhold any and all future financial contributions from any Democrats who don’t support the centerpiece of Obama’s plan: Expanded background checks.

Kenneth Lerer, a New York businessman who is chairman of Buzzfeed.com, and David Bohnett, a technology entrepreneur and philanthopist based in Los Angeles, are both major financial supporters of Democratic candidates, having each given scores of large contributions over the years. They are both key players in the political fundraising world and wield influence among other donors and fundraisers.

Neither will give another dime to any Senate Democrat who does not support expanded background checks, I’m told — and both will suggest to other donors that they do the same. The move underscores the rising importance of gun control as an issue in Democratic politics — and the rising frustration in some Democratic circles with elected officials who continue to regard gun politics as a third rail, at a moment that presents a real opportunity to achieve serious reform, with a policy that enjoys near universal public support.

“At some point you have to draw a line in the sand — for me that time is now,” Lerer told me in an interview. “If candidates or officeholders can’t support something like comprehensive and enforceable background checks, then I wouldn’t think of giving them any money going forward.” - The Washington Post, 3/28/13

So Baucus has some time to think about that while he's back in Montana.  If Messina can make the point that backing universal background checks will secure him funding for his re-election campaign, then maybe he'll get on board.

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Mar 29, 2013 at 07:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Montana Kossaks, Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA), and Shut Down the NRA.

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