Wisconsin GOP Files Ethics Complaint Against Baldwin (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 1:59 p.m. | The Wisconsin Republican Party wants the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the termination of Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin's deputy state director.  

Marquette Baylor, who had led Baldwin's operation in Milwaukee, was ousted in January after the senator came under scrutiny back home for her office not acting swiftly in response to a whistle-blower complaint about over prescribing medication at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility in the state.  

"As part of a massive cover-up, Tammy Baldwin wrongly appropriated taxpayer funds to compensate a Senate employee who would not have performed official government duties while also fraudulently offering a contract to silence a former employee in order save Baldwin's own political career," alleges the complaint, which is signed by Republican Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Joe Fadness. A copy was provided to CQ Roll Call ahead of its formal release.  

"This is a frivolous allegation wholly without merit and nothing more than a political stunt. It is unfortunate that the Republican Party has made the choice to play partisan politics with the serious and tragic issues facing the VA and our veterans," Baldwin's lawyer Marc Elias said in an email.  

Elias had previously issued a statement explaining the rationale for firing Baylor.  

"Marquette Baylor was terminated because her long-term performance on a range of issues did not meet with the senator's expectations for effective constituent service," Elias said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , also confirming she had rejected a severance package that was assembled in conjunction with the Senate's own employment lawyer.  

Elias also said in his statement that the severance proposal featured "standard confidentiality language."  

The Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday that Baylor also had retained counsel and was exploring the possibility of filing a lawsuit.  

This all comes amid an investigation into the death of a patient last year at the Tomah VA Medical Center, where there have been numerous allegations of over prescription of medication, most notably painkillers. A whistle-blower by the name of Ryan Honl, a former facility employee, told Gannett's Wisconsin newspapers  last month that Baylor is just one of several Baldwin staffers who mishandled his complaint about the VA facility.  

The controversy surrounding the VA facility has gained significant attention in Wisconsin media outlets, and the House Veterans' Affairs Committee is planning to hold a field hearing in Tomah, according to a committee aide. Four Wisconsin House members requested that hearing in a letter sent to Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and ranking member Corrine Brown, D-Fla.  

Gannett also reported  Baldwin's office had a copy of a VA inspector general report identifying opiate prescriptions at the facility that seemed out of line with those at other facilities in the upper Midwest.  

The GOP ethics complaint alleges Baldwin may have run afoul of the Antideficiency Act, which is the federal law that bars spending of appropriated funds for purposes other than the intended purpose.  

"Through the offer of a severance package that includes a cash payout of taxpayer dollars to Marquette Baylor, who is not expected to perform any United States Senate official duties, Tammy Baldwin has acted in direct violation of [the law] since appropriated funds are being misused," the complaint alleges.  

A copy of the complaint and its supporting exhibits is posted here .  

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