In theory, Members of Congress who post videos to their official websites are bound by the same rules that govern taxpayer-funded mail pieces: no overtly political or partisan messages, no mention of elections, no solicitation of support for legislation or a candidate.
But Rep. Darrell Issa appears to have figured out the print rules do not really apply to video.
Staff for Issa, the top Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has posted dozens of videos to the committees website and YouTube page that mock the Obama administration, ask viewers to oppose legislation and mention electoral politics all paid for with taxpayer money.
The California Republicans office argues that none of the videos violate any House rule or guideline, and that Democrats have posted videos that are just as political.
The real problem, Issas spokesman said, is that the House Administration Committee has failed to publish clear rules for what Members can and cannot say in a video.
There are few active video feeds among the Republican and Democratic websites of major House committees, and videos posted on those sites are generally clips of hearings, floor statements or Member appearances on TV news programs.
But Issas staff, operating under the nom-de-film Oversight Productions, has produced videos resembling campaign issue ads and posted them to the Oversight Committee website or the Oversight Republicans channel on YouTube.
One of Issas videos attacks President Barack Obama for requiring that construction projects using federal stimulus money post signs announcing that fact. The video argues this is illegal propaganda because since 1952, its been illegal to use public money to push a partisan program or person. The video also hints at electoral politics, saying the signs are meant to put President Obama back in the White House.
Another video attacks the administration for a Schizo Strategy on Afghanistan, with a Dragnet-type narrator saying Obama keeps talking moderate but bows to the left over a photo of Obama bowing to Japanese Emperor Akihito. The narrator goes on to say Obama has done the same thing on stimulus and heath care and concludes thats more left turns than a NASCAR race.
In March, as the House was gearing up for final passage of the bill to overhaul the health care system, Issas staff posted on the committee website a video of protesters rallying against the measure and chanting kill the bill.
The video cuts to a text frame saying Do you hear us Speaker Pelosi? then to another reading Tell Pelosi to Kill the Bill. Another video was a skit of someone dressed as America suffering a health care hangover complete with vomiting sound effects after consuming a toxic drink labeled ObamaCare.
In 2008, the House Administration Committee adopted a new policy on web videos. The policy allows Members to post videos on YouTube and other networking sites, but the videos must be in compliance with Federal law and House rules and regulations applicable to official communications and germane to the conduct of the Members official and representational duties.