In the wake of reports that he recommended his girlfriend Melodee Hanes, who served on his Senate staff, to be a United States Attorney, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) issued this statement today:
Mel and I have a wonderful relationship. We are living together and enjoying spending time with each other and our families. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.
Mel and I were both separated from our former spouses when we got together. It wasn’t an “affair.” As we grew closer and things progressed, we knew it was time to begin the process of Mel transitioning out of my Senate office.
Baucus is absolutely right. Whenever an elected official has a personal relationship with a staff member, it is important to begin the process of finding them something else. After all, they might get caught. Or it might get into the press. Or they might even be accused of hypocrisy with the DSCC going after Senator John Ensign (R-NV) and all.
As a highly qualified prosecutor who tried more than 100 jury trials and as a former law professor, Mel would have been an excellent U.S. Attorney for Montana. She is widely regarded as an expert in child abuse prosecution. I for one did not want her relationship with me to disqualify her from applying for the position.
Baucus is right again. Just think of the huge loss to our nation if all the Congressional staffers who are having romantic relationships with their bosses were suddenly disqualified from serving in even more powerful positions. How would the work of government ever get done?
And Baucus went the extra mile to address the concerns of anyone who might wonder about the propriety of a Senator recommending his girlfriend to be a U.S. Attorney:
I appointed an independent, third-party reviewer and established an open and fair process that resulted in 3 names being sent, unranked, to the White House for consideration.
What a relief. No one can say that Ms. Hanes’ consideration for the U.S. Attorney’s post had anything to do with her relationship with Baucus. I am sure the independent reviewer didn’t even know about it. Montana may have a small population, but it is certainly an accomplishment to make it into the final three. Congratulations to Ms. Hanes!
Too bad it didn’t work out. Baucus statement concludes:
But, in the end, we decided it would be best for Mel to withdraw her name from consideration.
That also allowed us to live together in Washington, where Mel applied independently with the Department of Justice, and, not surprisingly to anyone who’s looked at her resume, got the DOJ job on her merit.
To here credit, Ms. Hanes didn’t just sit around the house waiting for the Baucus to come home. She applied ‘independently’ for the Justice Department job and got it on her own merits. Not surprising at all.