04/13/2008 03:02 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Democratic Culture of Corruption

A little more than a year ago, Ari Berman penned an article for The Nation about the culture of corruption seething inside the Democratic Party. He focused in on Montana Sen. Max Baucus (D), who he labeled "K Street's favorite Democrat." Now the hometown papers in Montana have taken Berman's analysis to the next level:

Since 1996, one-fifth of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus' highest-paid staff members have left their jobs to become lobbyists, usually for industries regulated by the powerful committee that Baucus heads, a Missoulian State Bureau analysis shows...The analysis by the Missoulian's State Bureau shows Baucus is not immune to what is becoming standard fare in Washington, D.C.: high-ranking staff quitting to lobby for industries likely to do business before their former boss' committee...The State Bureau analyzed the employment records of Baucus' Senate staff between 1996 and early 2007. Of that group, the analysis identified 58 of his highest-paid staff. Of those, 12 left to become lobbyists and 11 of those lobbied for banks, insurance companies, hospitals, nursing homes, drug companies and, particularly, PhRMA, the prescription drug lobby...Baucus also had staff working for him on the Senate Finance Committee, and some of them left that job to become lobbyists...The path to PhRMA isn't a one-way street for Baucus staff. At least one Baucus staffer -- Michelle Easton, the current chief health and welfare lawyer on the Senate Finance Committee -- was a vice president at PhRMA immediately before Baucus hired her...With 20 former staff now working as lobbyists, Baucus ranks No. 5 on the center's list of lawmakers who have either hired from or lost staff to lobbying.

This is the kind of story that adds credence to the concept that when it comes to core economic and corruption issues, America is governed by one party with two separately named wings.

Oh yeah, Baucus is one of the key figures on trade policy. Big shocker that he's been one of the guys maneuvering to find a way to pass the lobbyist-written Colombia Free Trade Agreement for the murderous Uribe administration.