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Ethics watchdog urges Senate committee to investigate Baldwin

By   /   April 22, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 5 of 47 in the series Tomah VA Scandal

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — A conservative ethics watchdog is urging the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics to “act immediately” on complaints filed against Sen. Tammy Baldwin and her office’s failure to act on warnings of abuses at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Tomah.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust sent a letter to committee chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and vice chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., asking that the committee immediately investigate events surrounding the firing of former top Baldwin aide Marquette Baylor.

“It appears that Senator Baldwin attempted to use taxpayer funds to hide information from those very taxpayers,” FACT director and former U.S. Attorney Matthew G. Whitaker said in the letter. “It is this type of behavior that erodes public trust in our public officials, and reflects poorly on the Senate as a whole.”

Photo by USelectionatlas.org

TAMMY UNDER FIRE: An ethics watchdog is asking a Senate ethics committee to investigate U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s actions surrounding the firing of a top aide.

Baylor was fired by Baldwin in February following a scandal at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center that has embroiled the junior senator. It claims the senator lied and has engaged in a political cover-up.

“I, Marquette Baylor, bring this Ethics Complaint against my former employer, Senator Tammy Baldwin, for making false statements and representations to cover up actions by her Chief of Staff and protect her political career,” Baylor states in the complaint, filed Monday.

Baldwin caught heat after investigative reports in January detailed allegations of abuses at the VA medical center, principally the over-prescribing of painkillers that allegedly led to the deaths of several patients.

Baldwin’s office, according to reports, did nothing with an inspector general’s report last year outlining the concerns and refused to act when a whistleblower reportedly begged Baldwin’s office to do something.

As the national spotlight grew hotter, Baldwin canned Baylor, her longtime deputy state director with, by all accounts, a sterling resume working for Baldwin and her predecessor, U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee.

Baldwin has said nothing about Baylor’s termination, nor the hefty severance package — with a confidentiality clause — offered to the aide. As Wisconsin Watchdog first reported , Baylor refused the payout and has enlisted the help of attorneys.

“After the public outcry, Senator Baldwin immediately sought to place the blame squarely on me,” Baylor states in her complaint. “(Baldwin) instructed her Chief of Staff, Bill Murat, to fly to Milwaukee, fire me, and offer me a severance package that required me to stay quiet. Murat then moved into damage control, meeting with individuals in Wisconsin and telling them that the inaction was my fault.”

Instead of explaining to the public why she failed to act on the VA information, the senator fired Baylor and offered to continue to pay her several months’ salary in exchange for the departing aide signing a confidentiality clause, the ethics watchdog says in a statement.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin also has filed an ethics complaint alleging Baldwin and her chief of staff “engaged in a concerted, taxpayer-funded cover-up to protect her political career while veterans continued to suffer due to the negligence of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” FACT states in its press release.

Baldwin’s office has not returned multiple requests for comment from Wisconsin Watchdog. The legal counsel for the Senate ethics committee has not responded to questions regarding Baylor’s complaint.

FACT made headlines in February when it filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Catalist, a private voter data firm, and dozens of Democratic Party and candidate committees. FACT alleges the company and the committees operated an “illegal coordination scheme” that has allowed Democrats to instantly sync their voter information with that of independent groups.

As the Washington Post reported, the watchdog also alleged that “Catalist — whose president is Harold Ickes, a longtime Democratic strategist and ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton — provides its data to candidates and parties below market rate, effectively making illegal in-kind contributions.”

Amy Weiss, a spokeswoman for Catalist, said in a statement to the Post the complaint was “a politically-motivated filing without merit.”

That is exactly what Baldwin’s people said following news of the filing of Baylor’s ethics complaint.

Part of 47 in the series Tomah VA Scandal
  1. After damaging silence, Baldwin now calls for probe of troubled VA center
  2. Legal expert says U.S. Sen Tammy Baldwin is in full ‘damage control’
  3. Baldwin aide breaks silence, alleges senator engaged in ‘coverup’
  4. Baldwin’s public relations team kicks into high gear following ethics complaint
  5. Ethics watchdog urges Senate committee to investigate Baldwin
  6. Tammy Baldwin’s political fixer is helping Hillary attack voter ID
  7. Senate committee asking if FBI missed the call in veteran’s death at VA
  8. When lawmakers failed Wisconsin’s veterans
  9. Is political pressure behind Lin Ellinghuysen’s differing accounts on VA memo?
  10. Bernie Sanders failed to act in deadly VA scandal, whistleblower says
  11. Does government union chief’s threat show AFGE’s hand on veterans care?
  12. What would Russ Feingold’s 1992 self say to the 2015 version?
  13. Ad attacking Feingold asserts veterans died because of ‘politicians who looked the other way’
  14. Feingold’s campaign caught up in VA scandal memo war
  15. PolitiFact Wisconsin trusts Russ Feingold to deliver its facts
  16. Sources: Ron Kind received call from Jason Simcakoski not long before Marine’s tragic death
  17. Captain Campaign Finance Reform, Russ Feingold, changes ‘dark money’ tune
  18. Baldwin talks transparency while keeping her secrets in Tomah VA scandal
  19. Ron Kind knew about Tomah VA abuse years before the story broke
  20. Ron Kind now solving Tomah VA scandal one press release at a time
  21. Tammy Baldwin silent on her failures as she blasts Tomah VA medical center
  22. Tomah VA whistleblower says he’s getting pressure from unhappy Dems
  23. Feingold’s facts fail again in face of Tomah scandal
  24. Senate field hearing to shine more light on Tomah VA scandal
  25. Tomah VA supervisor accused of misconduct gets promoted
  26. Senate hearing to look deeper into scandal-plagued Tomah VA hospital
  27. Kind flees questions, Senate committee turns up heat on Tomah VA hospital scandal
  28. Report: Tomah VA hospital story is one of ‘systemic failures’
  29. Tomah VA hospital whistleblower: ‘It will not change’
  30. Ron Kind breaks silence on call from veteran victim at Tomah VA hospital
  31. VA union holds rally to save itself, Tomah whistleblower says
  32. Sound familiar? Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth accused of retaliation at VA
  33. Emails say Tomah VA patient reached out to Feingold, Kind, in 2008 about abuse
  34. Johnson: Hold accountable those who put Tomah veterans at risk of HIV, hepatitis
  35. Veteran jumps out of third-floor window at Tomah VA hospital
  36. Tomah VA employee: ‘We have forgotten who we work for’
  37. Congressional committees want answers on Tomah VA hospital
  38. Senators ask Pence, Trump transition team, to hold troubled VA accountable
  39. Veterans advocate: VA hospitals’ ‘improvement’ doesn’t tell whole story
  40. Tomah VA Medical Center’s ‘Candy Man’ stripped of license
  41. Opinions differ on whether it’s ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ at Tomah VA
  42. Latest data show Tomah VA hospital improving in opioid prescriptions, veteran satisfaction
  43. VA secretary nominee faces little resistance, lots of challenges
  44. Insiders: Tomah VA troubles continue with nurse shortage, neglectful care
  45. VA whistleblower has questions for Congressman Ron Kind
  46. Johnson brings back whistleblower protection bill as Sunshine Week opens
  47. Iraq war veteran burned by ‘very frustrating process’ at VA

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M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.