Baucus’ Girlfriend Helped Arrange His Separation

Okay, this is just creepy, but creepy in terms that may impact politics more than Tiger Woods taking a hiatus from golf:

The Missoulian newspaper today disclosed that Sen. Max Baucus’s future girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, was involved in discussions with the senator’s divorce lawyer in 2007 while serving on the Montana Democrat’s Senate staff. The Montana newspaper quoted from billing records submitted by Baucus’s lawyer, Ronald F. Waterman, in Helena.

Main Justice obtained a copy of the billing records. Click here to see them.

The records show that Hanes – whom Baucus later recommended to the White House as a finalist for Montana’s U.S. Attorney – consulted with the divorce lawyer on such delicate matters as how to determine the value of the home Baucus shared with his then-wife, Wanda, in Washington’s exclusive Georgetown section.

Mind you, nothing about this development (unlike the fact that MaxTax nominated his girlfriend to be US Attorney and that he brought her on a trip to Dubai) is ethically scandalous. MaxTax just had his then State Director and now girlfriend handle discussions with the lawyers drawing up his separation agreement with his then wife.

Indeed, at one level this proves the point Baucus’ office has been making–that Baucus’ relationship with Hanes (which reportedly started in June 2008) had nothing to do with his split with his ex-wife.

But it is all rather, um, cozy.

Update: It gets creepier. Baucus’ then wife, Wanda, didn’t know that he was scheming on a separation at the time.

Wanda Baucus, the senator’s second wife, said Friday that she knew nothing about the 2007 meetings and that the couple had not at that point discussed getting a divorce.

“I think this whole thing is very sad. It’s not the way you do things,” she said in an interview.


“Ending a 25-year marriage is a serious undertaking that should be discussed first within the family,” Wanda Baucus said. “There’s no justification for the staff being involved in such private matters.”

Which I guess means Baucus’ then State Director and now girlfriend knew that he was splitting before his then wife did.

50 replies
  1. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    MaxTax just had his then State Director and now girlfriend handle discussions with the lawyers drawing up his separation agreement with his then wife.

    Oh, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are going to have soooooo much fun…

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Honest services fraud, isn’t it? The people do not allocate tax revenue to fund Senate staff budgets in order to facilitate the private divorces of public Senators. I just know that Mr. Baucus had her keep time charges and reimbursed his official budget for her services out of his personal bank account. And he has the accounting records and canceled checks to prove it.

    Apart from her time, however, there’s the opportunity cost borne by the people for the public work she didn’t do while servicing the personal needs of this senior public employee. How do we account for that?

    I suggest that Mr. Baucus pay to the Treasury the difference between the low hourly rate paid to his highly qualified staffer and the higher hourly rate he would have paid to a high-end, private divorce lawyer for her time. Plus interest. That would come close to making the people whole, while putting Mr. Baucus in the identical position he would be in had he not abused the powers of his office and used public resources for private ends.

  3. evietoo says:

    Every time I see this woman’s name, I think it’s Melody Barnes and I panic a second for the administration. I can’t be the only one.

    Honestly, I can’t really be all that scandalized over this revelation. His appt reveal was much worse.

  4. ezdidit says:

    Outrageous corruption, but his cohort scarcely sees it: Dystopic injustices, wreaked upon the citizenry, caught within a framework of campaign contributions and sheer hubris for them – just more suffering for us that we have to be tolerant of this crap.

    Clear-thinking politicians on our side should run Baucus out of town on a rail – maybe the f**king commander-in-chief could even get off his duff and lend a hand, maybe for the sake of ‘bipartisan’ recriminations.

    What a bunch of assholes. I am with the teabaggers to a certain minimal extent: FIRE corrupt CONGRESSional deadwood scheming for the other side for campaign bribes!

    Money is speech? The perversity of SCOTUS taking a goddamn clerk’s footnote and making convenient law. We just need a few more Sotomayors and we’re set!

  5. Palli says:

    Elected Senators and Representatives receive money for staff salaries. right? (Expenses of the office or campaign funds)
    A State Director staff position is paid from this allotment also? right? ( Expenses of the office or campaign funds)

    The government (through our taxes) paid for Senatorial staff time to meet with a divorce attorney and help plan the dissolution of a marriage. right or wrong?

    What an inappropriate blend of live-work! A senatorial lifestyle means everything is a business expense.

  6. Frank33 says:

    Oh you cannot make this stuff up…Only in that Village of Dee Cee…This may not be a bombshell but it is at least a cherry bomb. MeloDee has been making more than a hundred thousand a year working for the Senator. Sweet. We do not get health care. But that corporate tool Baucus gets a Mistress. It is not fair.

    Hanes’ ex-husband Thomas Bennett tells, “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.”

  7. Bloix says:

    He didn’t “nominate” his girlfriend for US Attorney. The president does that. He submitted her name as one of six people that he recommended. An independent reviewer selected her as one of three who were best qualified. And then she withdrew when their relationship got more serious.
    As for the role she played in his separation from his wife, i see no conflict with her public duties there at all.
    What’s going on here is that the Republicans are looking for a scandal as a counterpoint to Ensign, who really did something criminal, so that the storyline in the press will be “they both do it.” And you, Marcy, are falling for it.

    • bmaz says:

      Nobody here is “falling for it”; that is spurious horse manure. Official recommendations for a US Attorney from a state’s senators, especially a senior senator from the party of a sitting President, carry immense weight. Putting forth Hanes without disclosure of the relationship is absolutely a breach of duty and good faith irrespective of whether it is a definitive ethical violation or not. Even more problematic, if you ask me, is the fact that Hanes is nowhere near qualified or appropriate for the position. She has no Federal prosecutorial experience whatsoever, has no experience leading a large prosecutorial office at any level, has little general major crimes experience, and, other than working for Baucus, has spent her career as a crusading overly aggressive child crimes specialist (where she accumulated a reputation as having questionable judgement and conduct) in a small county division office in Iowa. By the way, she was literally pretty much run out of that office for her conduct. Anybody who thinks Hanes was one of the three most qualified attorneys in Montana to lead the US Attorney’s office there is either a blithering idiot or lying.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        As you know, the formal hiring process is often corrupted, the more strenuous the “objectivity” of the process, sometimes the more frequently it’s abused. Its rules are followed, but off the record conversations make clear which powerful interests want which candidates. Karl Rove didn’t invent the abuse he engaged in to replace uncooperative US Attorneys; he took the abuse to new heights. Others in Washington followed suit. Who was there left to complain to?

        As you say, both senators for a state usually submit recommendations for top federal appointments in their state. A panel may winnow them to a recommended nomination, but it’s usually informally obvious who the preferred candidate is. Presidents are also trying to fill traditional patronage appointments with people from their network, and sometimes the two lists clash.

        What was normal before Bush was that successful candidates were also qualified or highly qualified for their posts. Because the federal government recruits nationally, that wasn’t hard. Bush, who seemed personally threatened by competence, and certainly by competence that conflicted with loyalty to him, set the standard by hiring for loyalty instead of competence. There are examples throughout the federal government, with DoJ, DoD and State most affected.

        Mr. Obama, in a spirit of Liebermanesque bipartisanship, has left many of these political appointees and their counterparts who have burrowed into permanent civil service jobs in place. An example of his peace at any price management style that will haunt the federal employment rolls for years.

  8. chuckfeney says:

    A Position for her Submission

    There was an old Senator named Baucus,
    Whose late midlife behavior got raucous.
    All the girls on his staff
    Would often whisper and laugh,
    When he’d invite them to bed for a caucus.

    Old Max was the last to admit
    That at romance he wasn’t a hit.
    Though his son’s name is Zeno,
    He’d be dating Janet Reno,
    If he relied on his charm and his wit.

    Finally Max saw what blind men can see,
    The fact that old guys don’t get it for free.
    If you want to impress ’em
    So that you can undress ’em
    Tell her you’ll make her the U.S. Attorney!

    At last Max got a sucker to bite,
    A lady lawyer not particularly bright.
    He kept her lust ablaze,
    With a 14 thousand dollar raise
    To insure their relationship stayed tight.

    When the press learned about Max’s scheme,
    They decided to play on his team,
    So they kept the story quiet,
    ‘Til Max couldn’t deny it,
    Then the hypocrites started to scream.

    They pretended that they didn’t know
    That Max left his wife for a pro,
    But they’d known for a year,
    And soon Montana would hear,
    They were shacked up in Max’s chateau!

    So the next time you do something rash,
    And you don’t want your dentures to gnash,
    Remember – the Senator who gets lecherous
    Causes the press to get treacherous,
    So don’t pay with a job, just use cash!

    Poetically Yours,

    Charles Ulysses Feney
    Livingston, Montana

  9. Bloix says:

    bmaz- (1) anyone who writes, as Marcy did and as dozens of news sources did, that Baucus “nominated” Hanes is falling for it. The US attorney position is a political position and it’s almost always filled by a crony of the senator of the president’s party, but the president does the nominating, not the senator. That’s not a trivial difference, and we expect sources like Marcy to be aware of what the Constitution says.
    (2) You say that Baucus, by recommending her, “absolutely” committed a breach of a duty “irrespective” of whether it’s an ethical violation or not. There’s no “irrespective” about it. The ethical violation issue is the only issue. This is not a discussion about whether he did something self-serving. It’s about whether he did something illegal.
    3) You don’t have to be the “most qualified” person to become US attorney. This is not a civil service job, it’s a patronage job. You have to be reasonably qualified and a buddy of the Senator and not a problem for the President. That’s how it’s always worked.
    4) She withdrew, didn’t she?

    • bmaz says:

      Thanks for the refresher, but i am fairly familiar with US Attorneys offices. You have latched on to a trivial instance of nomenclature/terminology and seem to think it is dispositive of the issue, intent and quality of this post. It is not. Pushing this meaningless bit of semantics is absurd and is, indeed in this context, completely trivial.

      Secondly, yes, sometimes conduct that does not rise to the level of a full blown formal ethical violation is still inappropriate and of a nature that is a breach of duty. Whether or not something is a technical ethical violation may be all you care about; I have different standards. Just because something is not illegal or a rule breach does not necessarily make it right and/or proper. In my book, it is hard to see how Baucus’ conduct here was proper and in good faith.

      Thirdly, even though US Attorney positions are “patronage appointments”, they are historically well vetted for the highest of professional legal standards and normally selected from the very top attorneys in the Federal Judicial District where the appointment is to take place. A premium is placed on Significant Federal court experience (of which, of course, Hanes has none). The position is very powerful in a Judicial District because the appointee heads a staff of career attorneys and prosecutors, as well as an administrative staff that supports them. Putting up a shabby choice like Hanes is a betrayal to the citizens of Montana; they deserve better and Baucus owed them better. Hanes was a pitiful candidate.

      Fourth, yes, she withdrew; but only after the press caught on to the scam and was preparing to expose her relationship with Baucus and his failure to disclose it.

      • Rayne says:

        Think you also omitted that they most definitely are nominated — or at a minimum, recommended — by members of the congressional delegation in a state.

        The scandal of the mass dismissal of U.S. Attorneys under the Bush administration, for example, was compounded not only by the firings for political reasons, but the disregard of feedback by congressional delegations regarding replacements in order to seat only those U.S. Attorneys who would perform to the orders of the White House.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          As well as ignoring Congressional preferences for highly qualified candidates, the Bush regime appointed candidates, like Rachel Paulose, who were loyal, but intentionally too junior or inexperienced to be independent or to fulfill their responsibilities, but who needed to be groomed to be eligible for the next step up the neocon sponsored ladder, to federal judgeships and other offices. The Bushies demanded that USA’s take heed of illegal political considerations in making professional legal judgments.

          Mr. Obama has appointed too few USA’s to take a read on their political malleability. That he has left in place some of Mr. Bush’s most egregiously and illegally political candidates suggests that he prides caution over competence. He would have made a typical First World War general.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Excellent point about the amount of management responsibility USA’s have. They are the chief federal law enforcement officer for a whole state or a large part of more populated states. They directly or indirectly manage what, sometimes more than a thousand professionals and support staff.

        They are also the chief DoJ liaison in their district for federal courts, the FBI, US Marshalls, DHS, other federal agencies, defense counsel for major alleged criminals, and so on. For practical purposes, as I understand it, they are the DoJ in that district on a day-to-day basis.

        Professionally fulfilling that responsibility is something that requires the experience of a brigadier or colonel, not a first lieutenant. Typically, qualified candidates have twenty years experience of the law and legal management (and their inherent politics), as well as considerable first chair litigation experience.

        Some of Rove’s proteges’ experience was limited to acting as staff assistants to Karl Rove or federal investigators, or to shepherding judicial nominations through the Senate, as if driving the F1 driver’s limo were equivalent to competing on the track.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I think this discussion is about emphasis, not fundamental disagreement.

    From what list does the president select his nomination? Sometimes his own, sometimes he earns more networking leverage by agreeing to a senator’s preferred nomination. I think we agree that the formality of presidential appointment is trivial compared to the political calculations underlying it. What the public sees via the formal Senate confirmation process is about as much as the public sees of Disney World; neither the Senate nor Disney happily disclose what goes on in their cloakrooms or beneath the mouse hole.

    I agree that it is not clear whether what Baucus did was illegal, but that it was unethical not to disclose his personal relationship with her. Whether under the Senate’s extraordinarily self-serving “no noticed public harm – no foul” rules his breach was actionable by Senate sanction or not is another matter. That goes to the “ethics” of the Senate itself.

    No one is disputing that political connections are the sine qua non for such appointments. My and I think bmaz’s point was that under Bush, the expectation that such appointees be qualified or highly qualified was thrown out, especially where the responsibility the nominee was appointed to fulfill involved enforcing the law or business regulations.

    Max’s squeeze withdrew her nomination, but it’s not clear why or who initiated it. It seems likely that word was about to leak, which would reveal the nomination and the process as corrupt. Your point, I think. Once such a decision is made, it is normal for the most junior person involved to take the hit by “resigning” or “withdrawing” their name. The publicly acknowledge reasons for such a decision, I think you would agree, are often laughably not credible in explaining it.

  11. Leen says:

    “There’s no justification for the staff being involved in such private matters.’

    Sounds like she was more than “staff” at that point.

    More likely holding onto Baucus’s ‘staff”

    • Twain says:

      I thought Mrs. Baucus handled this with lots of class.
      She just said “how sad” – and it’s make the Senator look like the jerk that he is.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        A woman after my own heart. Having been involved in a messy emotional situation, entirely different from the one under discussion, and being much younger than Mrs. Baucus, I can only admire her. Wish I’d been so wise.

  12. barbara says:

    Been there, done this. Life long before David. Ugliness abounds. At least I didn’t have to read about it in the news a la the Mesdames Woods, Sanford, Baucus. Ick. Just ick.

    Older, Wiser, More Skeptical, Less Trusting Woman in MN

  13. Leen says:

    Tacky tacky. Can not believe the way Chris Matthews makes Sanford of SC out to be such a stand up guy while he trashed Clinton for his blowjobs.

    Just keep your stance consistent that is all I ask

      • Leen says:

        however wide it is just please don’t try to do back flips or twist it around the way Chris Matthews has done on these moral rules that apply for Clinton but not for the guy he likes Sanford.

        • Twain says:

          Sanford is creepy and brings shame to his state, the Congress, and to himself. I can’t imagine why Carolina would keep him in office.

          • Leen says:

            And Chris Matthews is always kind of sticking up for this adulterer but has always ripped Bill Clinton a new one for his affair. Wthell

          • Twain says:

            I meant shame to the Congress in the sense that the elected in DC from his state did not speak up against him and push to have him removed.

  14. Leen says:

    Juan cole has some nifty writing up. Unable to link

    Saturday, December 12, 2009
    AfPak Dilemmas
    Not only have Blackwater mercenaries (now Xe) helped the CIA kidnap people (“rendition”), but it is now coming out that they’ve been helping launch covert assassination drones in Pakistan. The revelations, which have outraged the Pakistani people, have forced the USG to cancel the contract

    Juan gave Obama a good whack here

    Friday, December 11, 2009
    Obama, Peace and War
    If it is true that the Nobel committee awarded President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for not being George W. Bush, they must have been dismayed to discover that Bush’s war on terror remained the framework for Obama’s acceptance speech.

    It was a great speech, with its references to Gandhi and King and its emphasis on human rights and economic justice. It was not a speech Bush could or would have given.

    But Obama ultimately failed to escape the pull of the GWOT. Accountability is demanded of others but not of the US. No high official will be prosecuted for war crimes in Iraq.

    The fringe terrorist group al-Qaeda is depicted as a challenge for the Pentagon, not the Interpol. Then Afghan insurgents are equated to al-Qaeda. Iran, which has no nuclear weapons program, is equated with North Korea.

    Obama implied that peaceful conflict resolution is preferable, but that challenges do arise that require a military resolution. But he has unwittingly stacked the deck in favor if the military-industrial complex by adopting Bushian rhetoric at key junctures–speaking of enemies as ‘evil,’ militarizing the response to terrorism, and asserting false equivalences that help make war seem inevitable.

    Obama has yet to decide whether he is a visionary or a technocrat. The prize committee hoped for the former. In this speech they got the latter.

  15. Leen says:

    oops last ot I will do

    from Juan Cole

    Thursday, December 10, 2009
    Top Things that would Redeem Obama’s Peace Prize
    The world has noted the irony that President Barack Obama is delivering his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize after launching an escalation of the Afghanistan war. Of course, the critique is a little misplaced, since the prize is for a specific policy success, not for being a pacifist.

    Still, Mr. Obama was clearly given the prize to encourage him in the direction of peace. It is the tragedy of the sole superpower that it is unconstrained by peers and so can launch wars of choice and shatter international law at will. It can be counseled but not blocked. He was awarded this honor as a counsel.

    So here are the things Obama can do to redeem his prize.

    1. Get out of Iraq on schedule. We can’t stop their low-intensity conflicts, and they are more likely to compromise with each other if we are not there.

    2. Resist calls for Iran to be bombed. Such a raid would guarantee that Iran would start a crash program to develop a nuclear weapon, and there would be no way to stop it short of full-scale war.

    3. Stop allowing the CIA to operate drones with which to assassinate people. It is illegal and shameful. The US military must be in charge of defending the country by force or we are a police state.

    4. Get the Palestinians a state by the end of 2011, even if by unilateral recognition. Palestinian statelessness is the biggest human rights scandal in the world, since citizenship is the right to have rights. This step alone would solve the bulk of US problems in the Arab world and would deal a deadlier blow to al-Qaeda than capturing Bin Laden.

    5. Stick to the plan of beginning a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in summer 2011. Karzai and the generals will attempt to embroil us in a decades-long quagmire. No one will remember his Nobel peace prize if President Obama lets that happen.

    • Leen says:

      Hey lurking mod I can not get on over there. Still being punished by RBG (are you RBG) . Rayne may want to post the clip of Howard Dean on Chris Matthews last night. Dean tries to explain what is happenning with healtcare for boomers changes.

      Later Lakers

  16. oregondave says:

    Speaking of Tiger Woods . . . I heard on the radio today that Gillette is dropping him. So, anyone know how to find out how much Gillette is still contributing to Baucus, Vitter, Ensign, Sanford etc. etc.?

  17. Bloix says:

    Bmaz, I don’t doubt that you know that when 99% of the reportage says that Baucus “nominated” Hanes, it’s wrong. Do you think that 99% of the public knows that? It’s not a matter of technical nomenclature, it’s about the separation of powers.

    And although you may “have different standards,” this really isn’t about your standards. It’s about the legal standards that apply to Baucus’s conduct.

    As I said before, there’s a Republican Senator, Ensign, who belongs in prison for a sex and blackmail scandal. There’s another one – Vitter – who certainly should be investigated and perhaps prosecuted for a prostitution scandal. So far, at least, this business with Baucus is trivial in comparison. Making a major deal of itis a gift the Republicans.

    • bmaz says:

      Your repeated emphasis on the semantics of nominating versus recommending is spurious, irrelevant to the overall issue and a complete red herring. This is about Baucus’ conduct, not that of Vitter and Ensign and to say that Baucus’ conduct ought to be swept under the rug because it is not as bad in your mind is crass. And, by the way, a great many people might think, and VERY rightfully so, that attempting to put an unqualified crusading incompetent in charge os a state’s US Attorney Office because she is your concubine is actually worse than Vitter and Ensign and, if Baucus had managed to pull off this BS – which he would likely have if not exposed – I would say it would have unquestionably been worse. If you want to shill for the craven Baucus and his love shack squeeze, be my guest; but I am not buying one ounce of it.

      Hanes was a completely unqualified hack; Baucus tried to slide her through to an incredibly important US Atty office because he is screwing her. That is the story.

  18. zarf says:

    we are, some of us, a bit sanctimonius. Had I had the opportunity to end my multidecade marriage with the help of an attourney, a well qualified one. I would have done it in a flash.

    Since societies have existed, people who held power have sought trusted aides.

    Ipse dixit.

    My friends

    • bmaz says:

      How the hell is Hanes a “well qualified” attorney on a domestic relations matter? Notwithstanding said germane question, that is Baucus’ problem and I could care less whether he uses his squeeze to help him get divorced; but how is it sanctimonious to object to him thereafter trying to place her in a critical US Atty position for which she is completely unqualified?

  19. constantweader says:

    By the way, in case this story didn’t make the FDL cut, the only reason Max dropped this story into the Friday night dump a couple of weeks ago is that the Missoulian gave Max a deadline to come clean or they’d report the Hanes Affair.

    The Constant Weader at

    • bmaz says:

      I have no idea what you are saying with that link, and I have not been “rolled” for squat. Quite frankly, I don’t know what you mean by that either to be honest. Melodee Hanes was a fucking unqualified hack who never in a million years would have ever been considered for a USA appointment if she were not shacking up with Max Baucus. It was a betrayal of his constituents and the US DOJ for him to even consider recommending her and he was dishonest in doing so. Roll that.

      • qweryous says:

        The Wonkette link is a screen grab of Sen Ensign’s picture under the headline “Ethics probes saddle Dems in 2010”, Sen Baucus is just to Ensign’s left.
        The rest of this shades toward trollery of some kind.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes, I saw that. But why does it “saddle” the Dems any more than the GOP? Honestly, I don’t really get the Wonkette point all that much and really don’t get the posturing by Bloix. Agree as to your summation. The ethics probes are what they are, and quite frankly I have no problem with the probes of Ensign, Rangel or Baucus (or for that matter, the one not mentioned – Murtha).

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