By Dustin Hurst ǀ Watchdog.org
HELENA — A slip of the tongue by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, could land him in hot water with the Federal Elections Commission.
In 2002, the Montana Democratic Party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a television spot supporting Baucus’s re-election that was so damning of his GOP opponent, former state lawmaker Mike Taylor, that it received national attention and criticism.
Critics across the ideological spectrum labeled it blatantly homophobic because it was set to classic porn music and ends with a shot of Taylor reaching toward a man’s crotch, a clip grabbed from a beauty school video the Republican produced in the 1980s.
It also features Taylor rubbing some sort of cream on another man’s temples.
Salon writer David Sirota called the spot “one of the most homophobic ads in American history.”
While the ad cast a negative light on the party and the DSCC, Baucus denied involvement.
He seemed to reverse course last week in a Businessweek profile of Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, who worked as Baucus’s chief-of-staff in 2002. In talking up Messina, Baucus hinted that Messina may have been behind the ad the whole time.
Here’s what Businessweek wrote about Messina, Baucus and the ad:
“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!” Humiliated, Taylor quit the race, and Baucus sailed to victory. “I found out quickly from Messina that there was no honor in politics,” Taylor says in an e-mail.
Messina and Baucus’s involvement in the ad’s production could violate laws that prohibit campaigns from coordinating with outside groups such as the party and DSCC.
Neither Baucus nor Messina has commented on the revelation, and there’s no talk of an FEC inquiry.
Taylor withdrew from the race shortly after the spot aired, saying it ruined his career.
”It was character assassination and personal destruction,” Taylor told the New York Times in October 2002. ”Even if I wasn’t going to win, I can’t run for something else now. This goes against the American dream.”