Last updated on 2012.11.09
Pat Powers is as predictable as Kristi Noem. When Matt Varilek lands hard punches on the woman whose job he deserves to take, the GOP-mouthpiece blog tries concocting some silly technical argument to smear Varilek, hoping that people won't pay attention to Noem's errors in office. PP tried it last year, when his blog joined the SDGOP in alleging that not-quite-yet candidate Varilek violated the Hatch Act by criticizing Rep. Noem. That manufactured scandal never gained traction, since it was flatly and obviously bogus.
Now candidate Varilek rightly blisters Rep. No-Show Noem for her inattention to committee duties with this powerful campaign ad, and Pat Powers goes crying to the House Rules. He claims that according to House Rules 5.2(c)(1) and 11.4(b), Varilek cannot use the footage for his clearly political purpose.
The rule seems patently unconstitutional. Open Congressional hearings are public domain. I would suspect that if Speaker Boehner or the House Ethics Committee tried to punish any citizen for YouTubing and editorializing on such public records, the courts would quickly mutter "First Amendment" and revoke said punishment.
But there will be no such punishment for Varilek's ad. I used the same committee footage last month for clearly political purposes. Speaker Boehner hasn't sent his House cops to arrest me yet, because I'm not a member of the U.S. House subject to its rules. House rules apply to House members. The only way to make the DWC's charges stick is to make Varilek a member of the House... which we can all do two weeks from Tuesday!
Powers tries to cite precedent in the use of House floor footage in a pro-Obama ad created by the Democratic National Committee under the direction of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. However, the House Ethics Committee appears never to have acted on those minor media rumblings.
Fortunately for Rep. Noem, there does not appear to be any House Rule requiring attendance or even attention at committee meetings. However, House Rule 11.4 on audio and visual coverage of committee proceedings catches my attention:
(c) It is, further, the intent of this clause that the general conduct of each meeting (whether of a hearing or otherwise) covered under authority of this clause by audio or visual means, and the personal behavior of the committee members and staff, other Government officials and personnel, witnesses, television, radio, and press media personnel, and the general public at the hearing or other meeting, shall be in strict conformity with and observance of the acceptable standards of dignity, propriety, courtesy, and decorum traditionally observed by the House in its operations, and may not be such as to—
(1) distort the objects and purposes of the hearing or other meeting or the activities of committee members in connection with that hearing or meeting or in connection with the general work of the committee or of the House; or
(2) cast discredit or dishonor on the House, the committee, or a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner or bring the House, the committee, or a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner into disrepute.
Hmm, decorum. Rule 17.5 says that a person on the floor of the House may not use "a mobile electronic device that impairs decorum." That sounds like a standard observed by the House in its operations. Noem's inattention in the July 24 hearing distorts the object and purpose of the hearing by making it seem that the hearing was of no importance. Her inattention casts discredit on the House and the committee by sending the message to the officials and citizens testifying that Rep. Noem is ignoring them.
Pointing out that Kristi Noem is not doing her job is not unethical. Not doing your job is.