Baucus To Leave Office . . . And A Troubling Ethical Legacy

250px-Max_S_BaucusMontana Sen. Max Baucus (D), 67, is retiring rather than face reelection in 2014. The decision will spare a campaign that would have reignited controversies over his use of his office to benefit his live-in girlfriend. We have previously discussed the controversy. In addition to giving Melodee Hanes, 53, generous raises as a staffer, Baucus pushed to have her selected as U.S. Attorney. What is most notable about this story is that it was not ethics that pushed Baucus from office despite the documented work for his girlfriend. He was allowed to continued unimpeded despite news accounts of his work for Hanes. His success in avoiding any serious repercussions in the scandal will no doubt emboldened his colleagues in the use of their office to benefit friends and family members. The two married in 2011.

Whatever the qualifications of Hanes, it was absolutely unethical for Baucus to use his position to benefit his girlfriend.

Hanes divorced her husband of 12 years, Dr. Thomas Bennett, in December 2008. She was given a top position at the Justice Department. It is not clear if Baucus helped with that position as well.

Baucus separated from his ex-wife, Wanda, in March 2008 and moved out of their home. Hanes separated from her husband in April 2008. Baucus divorced his second wife, Wanda, in April after 25 years.

He was previously criticized for giving a huge raise to Hanes while she worked for him as a staffer.

I have previously written about the sordid state of congressional ethics. Senators have routinely used their office and connections to benefit family members. This included Sen. Jim Bunning (R, Ky) lobbying for a judgeship for his son who was viewed as “unqualified” by the ABA.

Baucus is a towering example of how ethics really does not matter in American politics. It is not clear how important the scandal would have been in this reelection fight. The message received by his colleagues however could not be more clear. You can push for high-level positions for your family and intimate friends with little concern over ethics. You are a member of the world’s most elite club and ethics are not a prerequisite. His survival from this scandal, if anything, could well make him an inspiration rather than an embarrassment for some of his colleagues.

24 thoughts on “Baucus To Leave Office . . . And A Troubling Ethical Legacy”

  1. Did not the Sainted President: Franklin Delano Roosevelt marry a first cousin name Eleanor? Did he not employ her when he was in the White House? Is he not a Saint?
    Harry had to hire his wife.
    I did not know that Baucus was married to this women until I read one of the comments above. She is not some live-in hottie?
    Lets give this 67 year old soon to be retired guy a break.

  2. Great poem Elaine!
    It is gain for the Senate and for our country to have this “pillar” of society out of office. The stench from the many staffers that joined K Street after working for him is overpowering. Good riddance.

  3. I wrote the following verse a few years ago when the Baucus/Hanes story broke:

    A Clerihew about Max Baucus

    Senator Max Baucus
    Of the “slap and tickle” caucus
    Considered Melodee Hanes
    To be one of his Capitol gains.

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