June 19, 2012

When Sen. Max Baucus warned recently that lawmakers will “slay some sacred cows” to accomplish tax reform, K Street was listening.

Seeing a major rewrite of the nation’s tax laws on the horizon, lobbyists have been taking meetings with the Montana Democrat’s aides, who in turn have quietly been reaching out to stakeholders. It’s all part of what one downtowner referred to as the “pre-process.” And it’s a series of interactions that, no matter the outcome of the November elections, puts lobbyists with ties to the Senate Finance chairman in high demand.

The six-term Senator’s network of aides-turned-lobbyists isn’t limited to tax issues. Baucus is taking a leading role in the handful of matters that have potential to move this year, such as a bill to normalize trade relations with Russia and an extension of highway and transit spending. His committee also has jurisdiction over major aspects of the health care overhaul.

“They have access and expertise,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, said of Baucus’ downtown allies. “They understand how the whole beast works, but they also know the kind of approach that someone like Baucus might take. So that’s gold.”