Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, asserted himself as a major voice in the debate over health care reform almost immediately after last November’s election. He has argued for cost containment and frugality throughout the intervening months and used his powerful position to make his arguments stick.
Now, we learn that the Senator isn’t nearly so frugal as he would have us believe. More details are emerging about his relationship with Melodee Hanes, one-time contender for the office of US attorney in Baucus’ state of Montana, also former aide to Baucus and apparently, current live-in.
POLITICO is reporting that, at the time he and Hanes were initiating a romantic relationship, she got a hefty $14,000 raise. She also took a junket to Vietnam and United Arab Emirates, valued at another 14K, with Baucus and staff, though her responsibilities did not involve foreign policy. (Baucus’ staff does say that previous holders of the position then held by Hanes had taken foreign trips with the Senator.)
It’s stuff like this that causes the American people to be deeply suspicious of those in government who appear to have no scruples about spending tax payer dollars exorbitantly.
Those suspicions are greater when the spendthrift is someone who talks about being responsible with taxpayer dollars when it comes to health care reform.
Baucus’ ideas on health care reform may have merit. But giving a staffer with whom he is romantically linked a hefty raise and taking her on a foreign junket which appears to have had nothing to do with her job portfolio, not to mention the Senator’s extremely close relationship with insurers who have a stake in whatever bill emerge from Congress, do not enhance his credibility.