Sen. Max Baucus and his live-in girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, were in the news recently when it was discovered that the senator had nominated his former staffer for the position of U.S. attorney in Montana (she later withdrew her nomination). When the story broke, Justice Department spokesman Tracy Schmaler said that Hanes was a “political appointee” at Justice: In June, Hanes became the acting deputy administrator for policy in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
The curious fact about that revelation is that this particular position has in the past been a career slot, not a political position. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs publishes a list of “Policy and Supporting Positions” in every agency of the executive branch. This is known as the “Plum Book” because of its plum-colored cover, and it also lists all of the available politically appointed positions throughout the federal government. Page 101 of the Nov. 12, 2008, Plum Book lists the deputy administrator for policy in the Juvenile Justice office as a “Career Appointment.”
In other words, the girlfriend of Senator Baucus has been placed in a position usually occupied by a career civil-service employee in what the Justice Department’s spokesman acknowledged was a “political appointment.” So is the DOJ inspector general — who was quite active during the prior administration — going to investigate this obvious political abuse of the civil-service rules? Don’t hold your breath.