Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is under fire for his March nomination of girlfriend Melodee Hanes for the U.S. attorney position in his home state of Montana. MainJustice.com‘s Andrew Ramonas broke the story on Friday, December 4 and some analysts believe the fallout may cause difficulties for Baucus and other Democrats as he heads up their push to pass healthcare reform through the Senate.
Hanes has worked with Baucus since 2002 and was one of six nominations for the U.S. attorney position. She made it through the first round of cuts and her name, along with Mike Wheat and Michael Cotter was submitted to the White House as Baucus’ top recommendations for the position. “…during the nomination process and after much reflection, both Senator Baucus and Ms. Hanes agreed that she should withdraw her name from consideration because they wanted to live together in Washington, DC.” Baucus spokesman Ty Matsdorf said in a statement.
Hanes’ ex-husband Thomas Bennett tells MainJustice.com, “She was recommended for the position because of a very close and personal relationship with Max Baucus and she withdrew because of a very close and personal relationship with Max Baucus.”
Melodee Hanes issued a statement of her own that claimed “it would have been an honor and a privilege to serve Montana as the United States Attorney, I have been presented with other opportunities that I felt I could not bypass.” She eventually left the employ of Senator Baucus and took a position with the Department of Justice, a position Matsdorf says “Ms. Hanes independently applied for her current position at the Department of Justice. Having extensive experience and qualifications in the field (see resume below), Ms. Hanes was awarded the position based solely on her merit. Since then she has excelled in her role.” (See the complete statement below.)
As an employee of a U.S. Senator, Melodie Hanes’ salary history is a matter of public record. Here is her complete salary history for the time she was working for Max Baucus’ office – click to see a larger image:
Here is the complete statement from Ty Matsdorf, spokesman for Montana Senator Max Baucus:
Senator Baucus is currently in a mature and happy relationship with Melodee Hanes. They are both divorced, and in no way was their relationship the cause of their respective divorces.
When Senator Baucus and Melodee Hanes, his former state director, realized that their relationship was developing beyond a purely professional nature, Melodee began the process of resigning her Senate employment.
With an extensive background as a prosecutor and extensive legal experience (see resume below), Ms. Hanes submitted her name for consideration for the U.S Attorney position from Montana. Her name was one of six that was submitted for review by Senator Baucus to an independent, highly respected Montana attorney who reviewed the applications. After an extensive evaluation of all the applicants’ qualifications, Ms. Hanes was one of three applicants the third-party reviewer recommended for consideration. Senator Baucus and Senator Tester then interviewed those candidates and Senator Baucus then submitted those three names to the White House, with no ranking or preference.
While her personal relationship with Senator Baucus should in no way be either a qualifier or a disqualifier for the position, during the nomination process and after much reflection, both Senator Baucus and Ms. Hanes agreed that she should withdraw her name from consideration because they wanted to live together in Washington, DC.
After withdrawing from consideration for U.S. Attorney, Ms. Hanes independently applied for her current position at the Department of Justice. Having extensive experience and qualifications in the field (see resume below), Ms. Hanes was awarded the position based solely on her merit. Since then she has excelled in her role.
UPDATE – Senator Baucus has issued his own statement, which is very similar to Ty Matsdorf’s but with a shift to first person. You can read the entire statement HERE.