Sen. Max Baucus gave the director of his Montana office a nearly $14,000 raise as they were becoming romantically involved last year, a spokesman for the senator said Friday.
Baucus, a Democrat who chairs the Finance Committee, recommended the woman, Melodee Hanes, for Montana's U.S. attorney post in February, by which time she was his girlfriend. He has called the former state prosecutor "highly qualified."
Hanes, 53, withdrew from consideration in March, saying she had received other opportunities. She was hired in June as a top official in the Justice Department.
The problem with this entire scandal is that it started with a personal relationship between Baucus and a member of his staff. Everything after that can be read a number of ways. In fact, his live in girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, may in fact have been more than qualified to warrant a nomination for U.S. Attorney. She may in fact have received a raise that was in line with the rest of Baucus' staff. In fact, all of this looks bad and it looks bad because she was his girlfriend.
There's a reason why some companies forbid dating in the office. All companies frown upon it regardless. In this case, it's even worse. In this case, interpersonal relationships mix with public policy. I don't know if Hanes was qualified to be U.S. Attorney. I don't know if she was supposed to get a raise. I do know that Baucus shouldn't have dated a member of his staff and that's what's caused all these other problems.