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, divorced in April 2009. The Senator had informally separated from his wife in March 2008 and they were living apart when he began dating Hanes, according to Baucus' office.
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 Departments Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as a counselor to the administrator.
Baucus spokesman Tyler Matsdorf said the relationship was not the cause of Baucus divorce and that Baucus did not arrange for her current position with DOJ.
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, Matsdorf said.
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, Ms. Hanes was awarded the position based solely on her merit. Since then she has excelled in her role, he added.
Hanes was one of three names Baucus forwarded to the White House for consideration as Montanas U.S. attorney. President Barack Obama ultimately tapped one of Baucus nominees, Mike Cotter, for the position.
Hanes has had a long professional relationship with Baucus, working as field director and counsel to his office between 2003 and 2005 and then as state director and counsel between 2005 and this spring. She also worked as the regional finance director for Baucus 2002 re-election campaign. Prior to that, Hanes was a deputy county attorney in Yellowstone County, where she primarily prosecuted felony sexual assault and child abuse cases. Hanes also teaches a class in child abuse law at Drake University Law School in Des Moines Iowa.