Culture of corruption: Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed Edition

Or, alternatively known as the It’s Not Who You Know But Who You — well, you get the idea.  Senator Max Baucus nominated his state office director Melodee Hanes to be a US Attorney last year, which seemed a bit strange anyway.  What qualifications would one have as a state office director for the position of a federal prosecutor?  Late last night, Baucus’ Senate staff explained Hanes’ resumé:

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ office confirmed late Friday night that the Montana Democrat was carrying on an affair with his state office director, Melodee Hanes, when he nominated her to be U.S. attorney in Montana.

According to a source familiar with their relationship, Hanes and Baucus began their relationship in the summer of 2008 – nearly a year before Baucus and his wife, Wanda, formally separated in April. The Senator has since divorced his wife.

Hanes ended her employment with Baucus in the spring of this year.

Hanes, who is divorced and now lives with Baucus in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Washington, D.C., ultimately withdrew her name from consideration for the U.S. attorney position in order to move to Washington, and she now works in the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as a counselor to the administrator.

So now Baucus’ girlfriend has a cushy job at the DoJ as a “counselor” to the head of a major office?  His staff insists that Baucus had nothing to do with Hanes getting that job, oh no.  Let’s forget about the other DoJ job Baucus tried to get his paramour, apparently impressed with her skills as a prosecutor, and just assume he didn’t find her skills as a counselor equally impressive.  And doesn’t the position of “counselor” sound suspiciously like a featherbed position?  Did it exist before Hanes, and what are the duties of the position?

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that the OJJDP has been the center of controversy over political payoffs.  Henry Waxman accused the Bush administration of using it for paying off political allies, including a golf program for young children that had his father speak at one of its functions.  In fact, Waxman opened an investigation into the OJJDP and the Bush efforts with the First Tee program and Elayne Bennett’s Best Friends Foundation.

The Senate has opened an inquiry into John Ensign (R-NV) and questions about his ethics surrounding an affair with the wife of one of his aides, and whether he arranged to use his power to keep the affair secret.  This falls into the exact same territory.  The Ethics committee needs to take a very close look at Baucus and Hanes, and the cronyism in the upper chamber of Congress — and it should start by determining whether that counselor position is a payoff from the Obama administration to get Baucus’ support for its legislative agenda.