Sen. Max Baucus' spokesman released a statement Monday responding to an accusation by a former Republican congressman that Baucus was intoxicated when he gave a floor speech Dec. 22.
Tyler Matsdorf, spokesman for the Montana Democrat, asked that the statement be carried in full, which it is here:
"When his friend of 30 years Ted Kennedy, with whom he had fought so hard to provide health care to children, was being used as a cheap foil to oppose health care reform, Senator Baucus gave a passionate defense. Unfortunately, those who want to kill any meaningful reform, turned it into an unfounded, untrue personal smear internet rumor. This is beyond the pale and this type of gutter politics has no place in the public sphere. It is this type of slander that makes Montanans, and Americans, disgusted with the politics as usual in Washington. And what is even more sad is that such a personal attack would be given any validity at all, let alone being elevated to the status of "news".
On Sunday, former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) wrote "breathalyser for members of congress"on his Facebook wall, along with a video clip of the Baucus speech from YouTube entitled "Senator Max Baucus Drunk / Intoxicated on Senate Floor - Shouts Down Wicker."
In the video, Baucus, who led the Democrats' health care reform legislation through the Senate last week, appeared to slur his words and repeat himself in some spots. Click play below to watch:
After his initial posting about Baucus, Foley updated his wall with: "This is the senator that hired his staffer and then took her on trips . . . and divorced his wife . . . and they had me run out of town". On Monday, Foley added: "My facebook page just hit the top of Drudge (Report)."
Foley resigned his seat in the wake of a scandal in which ABC News uncovered sexually explicit e-mails and instant messages the congressman sent to former House pages. Foley, who went to rehab in Arizona after the scandal broke, is now a radio talk show host.
I know Foley from when he was a deputy whip when I was communications director for then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay. On Monday, I e-mailed Foley to ask if he was saying that Baucus has a drinking problem. Foley responded: "I am in no position to judge the senators drinking habits, but it is clearly not advisable to take to the Senate floor for a major debate on health policy if you have been consuming alcoholic beverages to the degree it impairs your speech..."
Foley was not the only Republican to weigh in on the Baucus video. Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) -- who, coincidentally, also was a deputy whip, resigned his seat in the wake of a scandal, went to rehab and is hosting a radio talk show -- tweeted Monday: "i will send him my 12 step book! Bizarre Baucus Behavior on Senate Floor Ignored by MSM | NewsBusters.org"
Health care reform legislation passed the Senate on party lines on Thursday. After passage, Baucus put out a statement saying: "After nearly two years of preparation, Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus helped pass monumental health care reform legislation today in the United States Senate."
But Baucus' success as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in moving the health care legislation has been tarnished a tad by his overlapping personal and professional lives. Two weeks ago, the senator's staff defended him against accusations that he abused his government funds by assigning his then-aide and counsel Melodee Hanes to meet with a personal attorney in 2007 to discuss his plans to divorce his wife.
Hanes is now Baucus' live-in girlfriend, but was his official counsel when she met twice with divorce attorneys, according to billing documents obtained by Lee Newspapers. Baucus' former wife said she was unaware that her husband was going to ask for a divorce at the time of these meetings.
Also, the couple's relationship has been under scrutiny since it was revealed earlier this month that Baucus nominated Hanes for a U.S. attorney position in Montana. Baucus also nominated two other Montana attorneys. Hanes withdrew from consideration in March of this year. Baucus, however, defended the nominations, saying Hanes was well qualified for the position.
In addition, the senator has been criticized for giving Hanes a $14,000 raise in 2008, when they both acknowledge they were in a romantic relationship, which the senator's spokesman told me started in the summer of 2008.
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