Lawmakers raised objections Tuesday to the release of two slickly produced videos featuring the Wisconsin Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee. In the first video released Friday, Ryan walks the hallways of a congressional building and speaks directly into the camera as he recounts the beginnings of the 2008 economic crisis and recent GOP efforts to curtail federal spending.
A second video released Monday featured stock footage of “everyday Americans” sitting in front of the TV or using an iPad and watching Ryan broadly outline his new plan.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) on Tuesday faulted Ryan for “spending thousands of taxpayer dollars to do video tapes — campaign style video tapes — to talk about his budget.”
“It’s unfortunate that taxpayer money — probably more than is earned by a majority of Americans — has been spent by the Budget Committee Chairman to do a campaign style video tape to talk about his budget,” he said.
Online video announcements are nothing new: Political campaigns, Super PACs and yes, lawmakers, use them as attack ads or to roll out policy proposals. The White House established a new-media department employing dozens of web designers, social media experts and videographers who produce a weekly series, “West Wing Week,” to highlight President Obama’s accomplishments.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigated the Obama administration’s use of government Web sites in 2010, concluding that Obama and Vice President Biden regularly used their perches to promote government Web sites that presented political spin about the economic stimulus and health-care reform programs instead of government facts. But the oversight panel also employs GOP staffers who shoot, edit and produce videos starring Republican lawmakers and maintain three separate Web sites devoted to specific policy goals. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also regularly release online productions, but use in-house staffers.
The Budget Committee went outside the Capitol for help with its videos.
According to financial disclosure forms, the panel paid $23,300 in the third quarter of 2011 and another $12,210 in the fourth quarter to Freethink Media , a D.C.-based video production firm. (Assuaging Becerra’s fears, the $34,510 sum ranks well below the 2010 U.S. median household income of $50,046s.)
Neither Freethink nor Ryan’s office returned multiple requests for comment.
The company produced a similar budget rollout video last year, called “The Path to Prosperity,” that featured Ryan standing and sitting in the Budget Committee room and referencing various on-screen graphics.
Freethink also has produced videos for the Heritage Foundation blasting President Obama’s energy policy and for the Stars and Stripes Honor Flights organization that flies elder military veterans to Washington to visit war memorials.
White House aides could not provide a detailed budget for its new media team, but noted that the Office of Management and Budget did not issue paper copies of Obama’s proposed budget when it was released last month.
Reporters attending Ryan’s press conference Tuesday received paper copies of his 98-page proposal.
This story has been updated.
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost
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