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Baucus acknowledges affair with former staffer

Update, 3:45 pm: Republican Senators have largely avoided commenting on the Baucus revelations but Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele jumped into the fray with both feet. Steele said the situation raises a "whole host of ethical questions" and called on the Senate Ethics Committee to take up the matter.

Original Post

Late last night, Fix alma mater Roll Call newspaper the site Main Justice -- run by Roll Call alums Mary Jacoby and Kenny Day -- broke the news that Montana Sen. Max Baucus (D) had an affair with his former state director and had recommended her for a vacant U.S. Attorney's job.

Fix alma mater Roll Call newspaper later reported the news as well. Writes Roll Call's John Stanton:

"According to a source familiar with their relationship, [Melodee] Hanes and Baucus began their relationship in the summer of 2008 - nearly a year before Baucus and his wife, Wanda, divorced in April 2009. The Senator had informally separated from his wife in March 2008 and they were living apart when he began dating Hanes, according to Baucus' office."

And then later:

"Hanes, who is divorced and now lives with Baucus in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Washington, D.C., ultimately withdrew her name from consideration for the U.S. attorney position in order to move to Washington, and she now works in the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as a counselor to the administrator."

Baucus spokesman Ty Matsdorf said that Baucus and Hanes are now in a "mature and happy relationship" and that their relationship was not a cause of either of their divorces.

As for the Hanes' nomination to U.S. Attorney from Montana, Matsdorf said that she was one of six people who put their names in for the post and one of three finalists as determined by a "third party reviewer" for the job. She ultimately withdrew from consideration because she and Baucus wanted to live together in Washington, D.C., according to Matsdorf.

It's not immediately clear what the political fallout will be for Baucus. The six-term Montana Senator isn't up for re-election until 2014 after securing another term with a whopping 73 percent of the vote in 2008.

From a political perspective, the U.S. Attorney allegations are far more potentially damaging than the revelation of the affair since the perception of using the power of the office to benefit those close to you doesn't sit well with voters.

That reality is why Baucus' office is going over the top to prove that Hanes sought the office on her own and was more than qualified to be considered regardless of her relationship with the Senator. (Matsdorf provided a detailed resume for Hanes along with a statement on her relationship with Baucus when the Fix asked for comment.)

This story will continue to develop over the coming days. Stay tuned.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 5, 2009; 8:31 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

Just an update on how the story plays in Montana. It has been front page news in the larger Montana daily papers. Four are Lee Enterprises publications and one, the Great Falls Tribune, is a Gannet paper.
As you say it is a long way until an election. Predictably the ones who don't like Baucus (who come from both the left and right extremes in Montana) are trying to make hay of it. Most seem to think it's much ado about nothing. The so called "affair" took place when he was legally separated. The woman in question did not get the appointment. The one who did, Mike Cotter, is a very able attorney with long experience in Montana practicing before the state and federal bar.
Baucus has his critics, but he plays very well among Montana's fiercely independent political base. If Baucus does run in 2014, the seat is his.
I don't see much happening in the Senate over this. The fact is, US attorneys have usually been people with more political connections than expertise running a federal proseutor's office. If they were looking for experienced legal administrators, US attorney appointments would be made mostly from career attorneys in the Justice department. As it has always been, the senior senator from the president's party has always had some control over the US Attorney picks. It posts are always up for grabs when a new president takes office. And no Senator, Republican or Democrat, whats to give up influence over these largely political posts.

Posted by: AlaninMissoula | December 7, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

There's a difference between a lack of perfection in your personal affairs (see Woods, Tiger) and nepotism. If he had an undisclosed personal relationship with someone, the only ethical choice would be to recuse himself from a recommendation. If this would have looked bad, then he had a clear duty to disclose said relationship.

I have served as a reference for someone with a TS clearance with whom I had a past relationship. That's the sort of thing you must make clear.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 6, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Chris says it's not clear how Max Baucus's latest antics will play in Montana. A Montana poet has written a wonderful little poem that pretty well sums it up. We Montanans, even those of us who are proud to be liberal Democrats are outraged by Max's behavior which clearly reveals his utter contempt for his constituents who have kept him in office for nearly 30 years.

Here's the poem:

A Position for a Submission

There was an old Senator named Baucus,
Who's late midlife behavior got raucous,
All the girls on his staff
Would often whisper and laugh,
When he'd invite them to bed for a caucus.

Soon Max saw what blind men can see,
The fact that old guys don't get it for free
If you want to impress 'em
So that you can undress 'em
Tell her you'll make her the U.S. Attorney!

When the press learned about Max's scheme,
They decided to play on his team,
So they kept the story quiet,
'Til Max couldn't deny it,
Then the hypocrites started to scream.

They pretended that they didn't know
That Max left his wife for a pro,
But they'd known for a year,
And soon Montana would hear,
They were shacked up in Max's chateau!

So the next time you do something rash,
And you don't want your dentures to gnash,
Remember - the Senator who gets lecherous,
Causes the press to get treacherous,
So don't pay with a job, just use cash!

Poetically Yours,

Charles Ulysses Feney
Livingston

We're grateful to Charles Feney for expressing our feelings so accurately.

DSRobins

Posted by: dsrobins | December 6, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

RAUCUS BAUCUS: NEXT POL TO FAULKUS?

***

What Do Secret Service, FEMA, NSA, DIA, CIA, FBI Know About This?

OBAMA WRONG AT WEST POINT: U.S. DOES TORTURE -- ITS OWN CITIZENS

• Regional Homeland Security- administered fusion centers use a nationwide microwave/laser radiation "directed energy" weapons system, employing cell towers and satellites, to silently, invisibly torture, impair, neutralize unconstitutionally "targeted" Americans and their families -- an American genocide hiding in plain sight.

For the rest of the story:

http://nowpublic.com/world/obama-wrong-west-point-u-s-does-torture-its-own-citizens
http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america
OR (if link is corrupted): NowPublic.com/scrivener re: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | December 6, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I think O-Nation is rooting hard for Phalin given that, according to Marist polls, she loses to him by 23 points if she's the GOP nominee. The only concern is that she might get her "base" (what a euphemism for those sociopaths, r@cists, and losers) so overheated that they do something unthinkable before the election. She remains the only GOP competition for BHO in 2012 that has penetrated the background noise. Dobbs, Pawlenty, Newtron, Cheney, Scarborough, and Audra Shay are simply not viable candidates.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | December 6, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

"I don't hate Sarah Palin and I think it will be great if she is a candidate for President in 2012. This would be a gift to all of us on the left and to the for-profit news media. I don't think it will work so well for the GOP or whatever party she represents.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 5, 2009 3:38 PM | "
----
The more politics becomes entertainment the more viable her candidacy looks.

Posted by: JRM2 | December 6, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Do we actually believe that all our senators and etc., are perfect or near? What about all of those who just don't get caught....think about it....now that should scare us.

Posted by: tooswt24get1 | December 6, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Today mr transparency meets behind closed doors to bribe, threaten, scheme and manipulate. This is the new way and change you voted for.

Today mr bipartisan tries to get the last remaining wayward dems to come along. No repubs are foolish enough.

Today the cost cutting health care bill will be porked up and overspent to eliminate all cost reducing measures. It's now all about obama's failure as an executive. The people are irrelevant.

Posted by: snowbama | December 6, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Tim Pawlenty in 2012.

This space forgot to mention that this week. :)

Posted by: broadwayjoe | December 6, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

"This non-story is enough to get CC into the office on a weekend, breathless with excitement that for once a scandal, however trivial, has a Democrat in its sights.

Republican resurgence! Rising!

OH GOD I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT TIM PAWLENTY I NEED TO CHANGE MY UNDERWEAR.

I'll raise you Jack Abramoff.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite"

Nah, he was on top of Sanford and Thune. I found out about those two from Chris C. I do think he has a bias, but let's not group him with Rove and Hannity.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 6, 2009 2:03 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Steele is getting into this? He'd better be careful. His own side of the aisle is quite filthy itself.

==

That's OK, his side of the aisle has no sense of irony.

Nor shame.

Have you forgotten that Congressional Republicans, even the most feverish Bush enablers, are in the sackcloth-and-ashes of "fiscal responsibility?"

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 6, 2009 1:08 AM | Report abuse

This non-story is enough to get CC into the office on a weekend, breathless with excitement that for once a scandal, however trivial, has a Democrat in its sights.

Republican resurgence! Rising!

OH GOD I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT TIM PAWLENTY I NEED TO CHANGE MY UNDERWEAR.

I'll raise you Jack Abramoff.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 6, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Meh.

Posted by: nodebris | December 5, 2009 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Steele is getting into this? He'd better be careful. His own side of the aisle is quite filthy itself.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 5, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Recommending a staffer is one thing. The relationship is clear and understood. Nothing improper about recommending an employee of whose work you approve. Recommending someone with whom you have an undisclosed relationship? BZZZZT!!!

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 5, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Is it more 'indefensible' than sanford? ensign, etc, - the R list is too long to recount. what it is is unfortunate.

But no republican is going to make a peep about this. Baucus is a pawn of the insurance industry and helping Rs in a big way to obstruct health care reform.

There is only one real 'value' in DC -- and it rises above partisan politics. And that is cash money from one's industry benefactors.

Posted by: drindl | December 5, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

"This is indefensible unless you are a kool aid drinking lib. That is why it is a big story."

Um, Baucus is one of the Republican's favorite Dems, that 's a big reason why no Republican senators have made a big deal of this and why many are questioning Steele's reaction (especially when he's not up for re-election for a while). There are certainly ethical issues here, but the real interesting thin g here is no one has anything to gain politically by making an issue of it, and doing so as Steele has may only backfire in the end.

I will say, though:

"Cilizza. You should know by now that when a repub dies this it is evidence of serious moral failure and hypocrisy. When a lib does it, it is simply a private concern."

If Republicans would drop from their party platform all the nonsense about being defenders of traditional values, the sanctity of marriage, etc., then maybe there wouldn't be a double standard. They create it for themselves. When a Republican does it, it IS hypocrisy, it isn't hypocrisy when a Dem does it, even if it is a problem (as in this case) for the ethical issues with the job recommendation.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 5, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

ONWARD AND UPWARD
I pass the vale. I breast the steep.
I bear the cross: the cross bears me.
Light leads me on to light. I weep
For joy at what I hope to see
When, scaled at the arduous height,
For every painful step I trod,
I traverse worlds on worlds of light,
And pierce some deeper depth of God.
'John Charles Earle, 1824-1903' http://tinkys1941.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!DCD7544ECCB8065F!219.entry


Posted by: edtroyhampton | December 5, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

now this is proof that we made a BIG MISTAKE RE-ELECTING THIS MAN.now we of montana need to start a recall petition, and get rid of this weasel.

Posted by: bittingtomcat2001 | December 5, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Just another politician.

Posted by: T-Prop | December 5, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Shrink2 is right.

I don't hate Sarah Palin and I think it will be great if she is a candidate for President in 2012. This would be a gift to all of us on the left and to the for-profit news media. I don't think it will work so well for the GOP or whatever party she represents.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 5, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

What I find fascinating about this is that Baucus apparently did not see any conflict in recommending his girlfriend/employee for a cushy job in the federal goverment until he and Hanes decided to move in together. More at www.eightfits.blogspot.com

Posted by: Baxter24 | December 5, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

"Also, to all you Palin-haters..."

As Nancy Kerrigan cried, "Why, why, why?"
Why can't Republicans understand we don't hate Sarah Palin?

You Republicans, you do hate Barak Obama, we allllll get that.

But try to understand this, we don't hate Sarah Palin. We agree with you, she is the best thing that could happen to the Republican Rising!

Now that Huck is toast, she will absorb all of his "values [bigot] voters" and keep anyone else from rising from the right wing as a faux moderate, as McDonnell did, but at the national level.

So go Sarah, don't hold back, tell us how you really feel about how people questioning Obama's citizenship are just as serious as the people who raised questions as to whether you are Trig's mom. I like how you think. Express yourself.


Posted by: shrink2 | December 5, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

“You pay anybody on any network and they say what you pay them to say,” said Epstein. “They’re bought and sold.”

Who knew?

But seriously, anyone who listens to Glen Beck deserves to buy in at the very tippy top of a commodity bubble.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 5, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Just a question -- are there really no FCC regulations on this kind of blatant huckerism? I like the way the head of the gold company tells it like it is -- Beck is simply a puppet for them, a ventriloquist's dummy.


"When I flip through the channel guide on my tv, the infomercials are labeled as such. How is this different from infomercials?

'But Beck has recently come under fire from liberals alleging a conflict of interest. The criticism spiked after he used one of his trademark blackboard illustrations to provide tips for weathering “the three scenarios that we could be facing: recession, depression or collapse.” In the case of a total collapse of the economic system, he recommended that his viewers construct “fruit cellars” and rely on what he called “the three G system. It’s God, gold and guns.”

[.....]

Peter Epstein, president of Merit Financial Services, which advertises on Beck’s show, says gold retailers expect favorable coverage from commentators on whose shows they pay to advertise. “You pay anybody on any network and they say what you pay them to say,” said Epstein. “They’re bought and sold.”

Posted by: drindl | December 5, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

"Political news" Chris? This is smut ... unless Baucus lied about it, who cares?

Politics of smear and smut. Nice work, Chris."

Have to agree. Where's the story here? Baucus, although not one of my favorites, broke no laws as far as I can see. He did not disappear into Argentina, he used no government planes for personal trysts, he did not arrange to get his mistresses' husband a job.

Now where is the story about several conservative Senators calling on John Ensign to resign? Now there's a story with actual political ramifications. Are how about the angry Mrs. Sanford getting into politics herself? And the calls for Gov. Sanford to step down, from his own party?

All of these are stories with implications. This is more like gossip.

Unfortunately, men in power can't seem to keep it in their pants.

Posted by: drindl | December 5, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

And this major political story was broken by an internet blog (Main Justice) rather than the Washington Post, our national political paper of record, because...?

Posted by: broadwayjoe | December 5, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"I couldn't help myself with the pop psych this morning."

I feel your pain.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 5, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Hanes is well known for her oral skills, her ability at hand.always accesible and is very knowledgeable about the lay in Washington.

I bet.

Posted by: snowbama | December 5, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Emmy nominee for sure: Steven Seagal as "Lawman" on A&E. This week's episode is totally devoted to "Chief" Seagal showing his officers about fifteen ways to jack up suspects/detainees. Steve is about 85 pounds overweight so there are no sweep kicks or kicks of any kind. A lot of bending of wrists backward and choke holds though.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | December 5, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Hanes is well qualified as an attorney and is well known for her oral skills, her knowledge of law as well as her ability to assess the case situation at hand. She has always been accessible to a number of members of the legal community and is very knowledgeable about the lay of the land in Washington.

Posted by: lau_pan | December 5, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

BTW, the best analysis of how BHO can improve his presidency can be found in...this month's issue of Golf Digest. The article is "Ten tips Obama can take from Tiger." Superb insight from "the King," Arnold Palmer, and others. Most quoted in the piece say BHO should be more competitive, like Tiger is on the golf course--a restating of the "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet argument" we've been making. They don't think much of the unending compromises with the tea bag crowd. Arn says O should stick to his values and fight for them. Nuff said.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | December 5, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

We knew it.

Conservatives are the most immoral, two-faced bastards on earth. No matter what political party they belong to.

This is good payback for opposing the Public Option. Pay attention, Lieberman etc...Karma is a MF.

Posted by: captainkona | December 5, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Since the snow makes it tough to play golf tomorrow, Barry has an opening in his schedule and will make a rare visit to the Hill tomorrow, otherwise known as the place where legislation is done. He will of course need directions.

Could someone make sure there is a camera crew and TelePrompTer there so Barry can contribute.

Posted by: snowbama | December 5, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Interesting, capable women aren't allowed to date interesting, important men and apply for interesting, important jobs they are capable of?

There's not much of a story here. I'm glad for the happy .

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 5, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Uh no. Any business outside of congress and media considers sleeping with office mates a form of sexual harassment. Why can't these clowns pick up girls in bars or in airport bathrooms or even at the schoolyard like cf8.

Not only is it inappropriate for the sense of equality among the other workers but promotions are problematic. For example the philanderer might nominate his girlfriend for a position she is not qualified for, using his influence.

This is indefensible unless you are a kool aid drinking lib. That is why it is a big story.

Posted by: snowbama | December 5, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I don't see the problem here? He never championed "Family" values, decried divorces an assault on "Christian" values, or called for criminal penalties for adulterers (or even stoning like the Bible demands). He was separating from his wife and becoming involve with a staffer with whom he now has a stable relation.

Now, if it was a male staffer, a very young female intern, if she was a prostitute and he claimed the mantle of "Moral" arbiter for American behavior, you might have a story.

Sounds like they behaved like responsible adults in a delicate situation.

Posted by: thebobbob | December 5, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Cilizza. You should know by now that when a repub dies this it is evidence of serious moral failure and hypocrisy.

When a lib does it, it is simply a private concern.

Please try to satisfy your moonbat base and stick to the script. Come on. Chant with me. Hope. Change.

Posted by: snowbama | December 5, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Never fear JW. Barry owns his own car company now and can order as many new busses as he needs. Maybe this is some sort of jobs program.

Posted by: snowbama | December 5, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"Political news" Chris? This is smut ... unless Baucus lied about it, who cares?

Politics of smear and smut. Nice work, Chris.

Posted by: ambiguae | December 5, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

To add to my post things like nominating the AG are the concern.

Particularly with all the articles and criticism with the Bush firing of 7 attorney generals this should be very concerning to those same individuals if it is anything more than partisan politics.

Posted by: Cryos | December 5, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

max wanted to be like clinton...at least this women was smart and decided to drive herself when max started bringing up kennedy...but as usual the hypocricic demoRATs will sweep this under obama's bus...getting pretty full under there.

Posted by: JWx2 | December 5, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Politicians from both parties do this. People do as a whole and politicians being type As are more likely to.

I don't like the media digging in either way to much to me it's a family issue and no need to drag all these politicians through personal issues.

Judge the legislation as written (I disagree with health care a lot by the way) but to me dragging through the mud for personal indiscretions has limited value.

Posted by: Cryos | December 5, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

doomed to a short flame and early snuff.


Why do you have to bring up the flamer cf8?

Posted by: snowbama | December 5, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Democrats think it's ok to ignore all qualifications? You call that news?

Democrats use their position to fulfill prurient needs. You call that news?

Liberals think all this is just fine. You call that news?

Posted by: snowbama | December 5, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Andy and W'dame could both be correct about the appointee - she might not have been nominated but for, but she was qualified and probably withdrew b/c of.

A small story, at most, I think. On the human interest level, it is sweet that their relationship survived at all. From the story, it seemed to have been a rebound for both of them, common romance trap #7, doomed to a short flame and early snuff.

I couldn't help myself with the pop psych this morning. Sorry.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | December 5, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Lots of senators nominate staffers for things like US attorney jobs. In this case when their relationship got to a certain point and they pulled the plug. And BTW she is qualified, more than the jokers that Rove and Bush nominated in NM and NJ a few years back.

This will be a flash in the pan and will be forgotten by next week, much less in 4 years when they will be married.

Posted by: AndyR3 | December 5, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Oh, SURE, she was qualified. I'm sure that if she weren't shtupping ol' Max, she would have gotten the nomination anyway.

Oh, yeah, and Max has some oceanfront property in Montana he wants to sell you.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | December 5, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Other important news: "snowmelt" failed to obtain the ten votes needed for induction in the Troll Hall of Fame. The rumors are that melt will make another try in 2010. Developing...

Posted by: broadwayjoe | December 5, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

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