It is a good thing that Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) represents Montana and not Minnesota, here. New details have emerged in the ethics scandal surrounding the Senator. Baucus allegedly gave his girlfriend Melodee Hanes a nearly $14,000 pay raise in 2008 when he started his romantic relationship and later took her on a taxpayer funded trip to Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Even without the romantic connections, I have been a long critic of the foreign travel of members of Congress which are little more than publicly funded vacations, here. They have increased with the Democrats who appear completely unconcerned about criticism that they are bilking the federal treasury for thinly disguised vacations and shopping trips.
Other details have emerged that may cause problems for Baucus. He insisted publicly that Hanes decided to withdraw from consideration as the new U.S. Attorney (with Baucus’ important support) when their relationship became more serious. However, reporters are now saying that the decision was made shortly after they confronted Baucus with the story at the Missoulian and said that they were about to make it public. Remarkably, the Missoulian never ran the story in March.
Baucus is opposing any ethics investigation into this conduct, insisting “I went out of my way to be up and up.” It may not matter much. The ethics committees in both houses have historically been dismissed as paper tigers. The rules and process are designed to vindicate rather than investigate members.
Baucus’ office insists that the salary increase was in line with other staffers. Around the time of the increase and the start of the relationship, Baucus had separated from his wife Wanda.
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