Baucus Defends Nominating Girlfriend
He says she was highly qualified for job and dismisses idea of 'affair'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2009 5:23 PM CST
Senator Max Baucus leaves the Seante floor Saturday.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(Newser) – Max Baucus today sought to squelch the notion that he acted improperly by nominating his girlfriend for a US attorney post earlier this year. "Everything of it is straight up and up," said Baucus, who called Melodee Hanes supremely qualified for the position in Montana. The two withdrew her name when she became a finalist because their relationship had intensified and they wanted to avoid allegations of impropriety, he said. They also didn't want to live apart.

Baucus said he and Hanes began dating in 2008, after both were separated, so this is not an "affair," reports the Washington Post. She was his state director at the time. RNC chief Michael Steele immediately called for an investigation by the Senate ethics panel, but no senator from either party has voiced agreement. Democrats pointed out that Steele demanded no such inquiry when John Ensign got into hot water with one of his staffers, notes Politico.