Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is defending recommending his girlfriend for appointment as Montana's U.S. attorney.
Baucus said the he and former state office director Melodee Hanes began dating when they were both separated from their spouses. The Montana Democrat said they did not have an affair.
In a statement issued by his office Saturday, Baucus said he recommended Hanes to become Montana's U.S. attorney because she is a highly qualified prosecutor who tried more than 100 jury trials, and said she is widely regarded as an expert in child abuse prosecution.
Baucus and Hines are now living together. Hines eventually took a post within the Justice Department. Furthermore, Hines worked in Baucus' office when they began dating.
There's of course several problems here. First, it's highly unprofessional, though not unprecedented, for a U.S. Senator to date a member of their staff. Second, there was a clear conflict of interest here. It's obvious that Baucus didn't make it clear that Hines was his girlfriend when he nominated her. These conflicts must be disclosed.
This scandal is about a lot more than whether or not Moledee Hines was or wasn't qualified. Even if she was, this was a cynical political ploy. It's exactly these sorts of conflicts that people are sick and tired of. If you're going to nominate your girlfriend, that's something you must disclose.
Of course, it's exactly the sort of scandal that the MSM seems to have little interest in. That's because following Baucus' name there's a D. So, don't expect this to get much traction anywhere but non traditional media. Baucus is of course at the center of the health care debate.