Sen. Max Baucus nominated girlfriend for U.S. Attorney post
Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus is defending his decision to recommend his girlfriend and former state office director Melodee Hanes for a job as a U.S. Attorney for Montana.
Baucus's main "defense" appears to be that he and Hanes were separated from their respective spouses when they started dating. That's touching, but it's hardly the point. The scandal here is an apparent conflict of interest, not infidelity.
It should be noted, however, that Hanes withdrew her application for the
AUSA U.S. Attorney job when she decided to move in with Baucus. So, ultimately, she didn't end up benefiting unjustly from her connection to the senator.
However, as part of the selection process, Baucus submitted 6 names to an independent evaluator who picked the top 3 candidates to be interviewed by Baucus and Montana's other senator. Which means that some aspiring AUSA lost the opportunity to advance to the final round because Hanes was taking up a spot. Media reports don't say whether the independent evaluator knew that Hanes was Baucus's girlfriend.
The really objectionable part of this story is that Baucus was responsible for interviewing his girlfriend and making recommendations. If Hanes wanted to apply for the job, Baucus should have recused himself.
Hanes, a former county prosecutor, now works on juvenile justice issues at the Justice Department. She swears she got that job on her own with no help from Baucus. We'll see if those claim withstands scrutiny in the days ahead.
Props to Andrew Ramonas of Main Justice for breaking the story.