Monday, December 07, 2009

The Baucus double standard

As news broke this weekend that Senator Baucus has recommended his girlfriend for a job as a federal U.S. Attorney, the outcry was pretty quiet. But that contrasts to a similar, albeit less egregious, breach of ethics. And from the lack of noise on the left, we're seeing how situational their ethics are. The Wall Street Journal reminds us of how different things were when the person in question was a Republican.
Here's a poser: Suppose a public official is accused of recommending his girlfriend for a promotion, though he was the one who first flagged the potential conflict of interest and officials had refused to let him recuse himself from decisions about the woman. Should he lose his job?

That's precisely what happened in 2007 to Paul Wolfowitz, who was run out of the World Bank on the pretext that he had given his girlfriend a raise. In fact, Mr. Wolfowitz had made bank officials aware that his girlfriend already worked at the bank before he accepted the job as president, and bank officials had raised no objection to the job change that removed his girlfriend from any direct reporting to Mr. Wolfowitz. The ethical uproar was a politically convenient excuse, fanned by the media, to oust Mr. Wolfowitz when his real offense was that he was too hard on corruption.

So it's going to be fascinating to see how the press corps and political class react to the news that Montana Senator Max Baucus recommended a staff member who was his girlfriend for the plum job of U.S. Attorney. Mr. Baucus disclosed the attempted sweetheart deal early Saturday after media inquiries made clear the story was breaking. The 67-year-old Senator disclosed that he had recommended Melodee Hanes and two others earlier this year for the U.S. Attorney post in Montana. While Presidents appoint U.S. attorneys, by tradition home-state Senators have significant influence in the selection, especially Senators from the same party as the President.

A spokesman said the Senator and Ms. Barnes began their relationship in mid-2008 after Mr. Baucus separated from his wife. Ms. Barnes left his payroll earlier this year, but only later did the couple come to their senses and decide to withdraw her application for the U.S. Attorney post. She nonetheless landed on her feet in another job at the Justice Department, and "was awarded the position based solely on her merit," the Baucus spokesman said. Of course she was.

As Senate Finance Chairman, Mr. Baucus is a crucial player in health-care reform, and our guess is that neither Democrats nor their media allies will want to explore this nepotistic near-miss lest it interfere with that greater political goal. But if they don't, we will learn a good deal about workplace ethics and political double standards.


tfhr said...

No surprise here considering Charlie Rangel is still giving America the finger from the chair of the House Ways & Means Committee despite his history of felony tax evasion.

Tah said...

At lest it did cost $300,000,000.00 for his vote.

Pat Patterson said...

Part of this double-standard is simply a matter of exercising political power. In the case of Mr. Wolfowitz his enemies, including some of his own staff, feared no retribution if he had survived the tempest. But in Sen Baucus's case the opposite is true. Even bringing the issue up could be a career ender and not to speak about the consequences of not actually weakening the senator and he continues to hold power.

It's a very old story which recounts how both the friends and enemies of Roman politicians or soldiers would poke at the body with sharp pins just to make sure. Before they went after his power they had to make sure he really was dead.

Bachbone said...

Read Michelle Malkin's latest book, Culture of Corruption, in which she details just the tip of the iceberg for the Obama administration's shady arrangements, nepotism, funny money dealings and blatant conflicts of interest. "Outrage, by Dick Morris and his wife, was an earlier book citing earmarks shuffled to businesses operated by relatives, friends and parties positioned to help get MOCs re-elected.

The sad fact is both parties do it and they're not going to quit until they are forced by term limits and limited retirement benefits to revert to the life of a private citizen where they have to live by the same laws they foist off on the rest of us.

If Congress can tell high level managers they can't earn more than a certain salary, taxpayers should tell MOCs they, as the top managers in the nation, can't make more than a certain salary and benefits, either.

slim said...

Could we say he was familiar with her briefs? Lotsa jokes here...

tfhr said...