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Tammy Baldwin appears to have broken Senate video rule

By   /   January 30, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

MADISON, Wis. — In her haste to make political hay, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin appears to have violated a 30-year-old Senate ethics rule.

Baldwin used video from a Senate committee confirmation hearing earlier this month on Tom Price, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.

Photo by C-SPAN

POLITICAL PURPOSES? U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, appears to have broken a Senate rule after posting on her political social network account video of her grilling President Donald Trump nominee Tom Price during a Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month.

Baldwin’s handlers pulled a 1 minute, 27-second video clip of the Madison Democrat peppering Price with questions about his position on Medicaid prescription drug price negotiations during the Jan. 18 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing and blasted it out on her political social networks.

A clip on Baldwin’s Facebook site declares, “A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer should not be this difficult,” a dig at Price’s answer.

In one tweet, Baldwin includes a 57-second clip showing she “pressed #Price to commit to ensuring substance abuse treatment will be covered.” The senator included the hashtags #PriceHearing and #OpioidEpidemic in the tweet.

In another clip sent out on Baldwin’s Twitter account, the senator hits Price on Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“If you repeal the #ACA, the impact is not narrowly confined to Medicaid and the individual market, it has impact on every American,” the tweet quoted Baldwin from the Senate hearing session.

Use of Senate video clips for political purposes runs afoul of a 30-year-old ethics resolution in the Senate Manual, which contains the “standing rules, orders, laws, and resolutions affecting the business of the U.S. Senate.”

“The use of any tape duplication of radio or television coverage of the proceedings of the Senate for political campaign purposes is strictly prohibited,” states the 1986 resolution on television and radio broadcast of Senate chamber proceedings. “….(A)ny tape duplication of radio or television coverage of the proceedings of the Senate furnished to any person or organization shall be made on the condition, agreed to in writing, that the tape duplication shall not be used for political campaign purposes.”

Baldwin’s handlers grabbed one of the videos from MSNBC, but news networks received the feed from the Senate. The Senate does not allow any recorded use of hearings or other Senate business for political purposes.

Baldwin’s D.C. staff did not respond Monday to Wisconsin Watchdog’s requests for comment.

Republicans criticized Baldwin for ignoring Senate rules so that she could showcase her political grandstanding on her social network accounts.

“Senator Baldwin is such an elite, out-of-touch politician, she no longer thinks that the rules apply to her,” said Alec Zimmerman, press secretary for the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “After nearly 20 years in Washington with nothing to show for it, it’s fitting that all she can do is put out videos on what else but more talk.”

Baldwin, who served 14 years in the House as the Second Congressional District’s first female and openly gay representative, was elected to the Senate in 2012. She is up for re-election next year.

A spokesman for the Senate Rules Committee could not be reached for comment Monday.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in 2015 was forced to take down a presidential campaign video because it, too, appeared to violate the Senate’s rule on video usage.

The video, titled “Rand Paul: Filibuster for the Fourth Amendment,” used video footage and audio from the Kentucky Republican’s long Senate floor speech about government surveillance, according to a story in CQ Roll Call. The Senate Rules Committee took immediate action.

“Use of any duplication of television coverage of the proceedings of the Senate for campaign purposes is strictly prohibited,” Senate Rules Committee spokesman Brian Hart wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call. “The Rules Committee advised Senator Paul’s office and they agreed to take the video down.”

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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.