06 Dec 2009 Max Baucus
Interesting news has broken about Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). Apparently he has committed a severe conflict of interest in the performance of his senatorial duties and what a future investigation could determine to be honest services fraud, a felony.
Baucus has successfully cultivated a reasonable, moderate and even thoughtful reputation. In fact, he runs an unprofessional staff and is extremely partisan. He has managed not to develop the reputation of a Charles Schumer (D-NY), Chris Dodd (D-CT) or Dick Durbin (D-IL) in part by maintaining reasonably cordial relationships with some key Republican Senate enablers and in part because he crafts his public statements with the sensitivities of his constituents his very red state in mind.
No doubt the mainstream media will drop the Baucus story as soon as possible, though I suppose we should be grateful it has covered it as much as it has. The story deserves continued scrutiny and, in my view, an investigation into whether criminal activity has occurred.
Mr. Baucus is somewhat between a rock and a hard place in terms of the excuse he gives for nominating a woman with whom he was and is in an intimate relationship for the very significant post of U.S. Attorney.
The Senator has more or less announced that the two are now cohabitating, aka, a near-marriage relationship. Yet had the Senator nominated his own wife for the post of U.S. attorney, the conflict of interest would have been obvious.
But if the relationship was not so serious, that raises the Elizabeth Ray question, for the lady in question was a member of his taxpayer-financed staff. It was said of Elizabeth Ray that she could not type, but it wasn’t her lack of typing skills that made her employment a scandal. Public officials are not supposed to use tax monies to pay people with whom one is sleeping.
Blogger and former Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor Sean Paige and the website GovExec.com recently reported the felony conviction of a climate scientist at the avowedly pro-alarmist NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. It seems the climatologist directed government business to his wife.
Prosecuting U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said of the case, according to Gov.Exec.com, “It is illegal for any federal employee to make an official decision that directly affects their financial interest, unless they disclose that conflict of interest and get approval from the government.”
Did Congress exempt itself from the conflict of interest laws that applied to this climatologist?
Or might Senator Baucus get off the hook here because he hasn’t married his lady? Because he hasn’t made an honest woman of her, does that make him an honest man?
Conflict of interest guidelines, however, are not the only cause Baucus has for concern. “In 1988,” reported the Wall Street Journal before the revelations in the Baucus case, “Congress criminalized ‘a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services… Conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.'” The Journal continued, “In the public sector, cases typically involve bribery or some other personal gain by a public official, such as a failure to disclose a conflict of interest that benefited the official.”
Does a man benefit when the woman with whom he is living gets a position more prestigious than any she has ever held before? Some might say no, but…