Tags: Health Topics | Healthcare Reform | VA Scandal | VA | Veterans Affairs | Tomah | Wisconsin

Ethics Watchdog Urges Senate Committee to Investigate Sen. Baldwin

Image: Ethics Watchdog Urges Senate Committee to Investigate Sen. Baldwin
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By    |   Wednesday, 22 Apr 2015 05:09 PM

A conservative ethics watchdog is urging the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics to "act immediately" on complaints filed against Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and her office’s failure to act on warnings of abuses at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) 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."

Baylor was fired by Baldwin, a Democrat, in February following a scandal at the Tomah, Wisconsin, VA Medical Center that has embroiled the junior senator. It claims the senator lied and has engaged in a political coverup.

"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, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisc.

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 coverup 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.

M.D. Kittle is national First Amendment reporter at Watchdog.org. Contact him at mkittle@watchdog.org.

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A conservative ethics watchdog is urging the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics to "act immediately" on complaints filed against Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and her office's failure to act on warnings of abuses at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah.
VA, Veterans Affairs, Tomah, Wisconsin, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Senate ethics committee
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2015-09-22
Wednesday, 22 Apr 2015 05:09 PM
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