The big story today: Senator Max Baucus of Montana apparently nominated his girlfriend for a United States Attorney position last March. Here are some juicy details from the New York Times today - which, strangely, isn’t featuring this story at the top of its site “above the fold”:
The girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, worked for Mr. Baucus as his state office director and as a field director between 2003 and 2009. Mr. Baucus and Ms. Hanes were separated from their spouses at the time they became romantically involved in the summer of 2008, said the spokesman, Tyler Matsdorf. Ms. Hanes eventually resigned from her position, Mr. Matsdorf said, and both she and the senator subsequently divorced their spouses.
Senator Baucus has served in Congress since 1974 and, as you may recall, is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and thus one of the most important and powerful people involved in our government’s ongoing effort to pass health care legislation. Which makes this little fact so disturbing:
When Baucus ran for his sixth term last year, his campaign raised $11.6 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Nearly half of the funds came from out-of-state donors, including millions from health care and other industries overseen by Finance and Baucus’ other committees.
Just 5 percent of Baucus’ re-election funds came from Montana donors.
Which makes sense, if you think about it, since Senator Baucus hasn’t owned a home in Montana for most of the time that he has represented that state in Congress.
So, several things. First, the idea that Senator Baucus failed to perceive the massive conflict of interest and ethical failure that resulted from the nomination of his girlfriend for the stated position is ludicrous. Senator Baucus knew exactly what he was doing. And, the thicket of conflicts created by Senator Baucus availing himself of health care industry money is absolutely incredible.
I’m not sure why there isn’t a clamor for Senator Baucus to resign.
[P.S. - From CNN today, where the story is also buried:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement about the development, saying “Max is a good friend an outstanding Senator and he has my full support.”
A Democratic leadership aide defended Baucus saying, “she withdrew of her own accord and is not the nominee. There’s no real issue here other than that the press likes a good story where they can use the word “girlfriend.” It’s doubtful that there’s any ethical and certainly no legal issues.”
So, the “liberal press” is pumping this up in order to use the word “girlfriend” that’s the real issue here.]