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Video Blogging Spurs New Brand of Politics

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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 26, 2007

RICHMOND, Jan. 25 -- The YouTube era of politics, which helped to bring down George Allen (R) in last fall's U.S. Senate election, has come to the Virginia General Assembly.

Upset that Republicans are killing bills without recording the vote, a Democratic operative is trolling the halls of the State Capitol with a video camera to put Republicans on the defensive.

The videos are uploaded on blogs or YouTube, a popular Internet video sharing site. On Thursday, after House Republicans killed several proposals to increase the state's minimum wage in an unrecorded vote, furious Democrats put a video of the proceedings on http://www.assemblyaccess.com, a party blog. Democrats have made changing the hourly wage to $7.25 a key part of their agenda.

Democrats said they are trying to foster open government so the public can gain insight into how laws are made. But in an age in which videos can destroy a political career overnight, Republicans are accusing Democrats of bringing a new, harmful tool into the nation's oldest state legislature, damaging the bipartisan tone that began the session Jan. 10 in Jamestown.

"It's indicative of a culture of viciousness that is infecting these halls," said Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax), who was first elected in 1968. "You are going to get shots of someone picking their nose and using it out of context in the fall election."

State Democratic Party officials said they are focused on capturing Republicans' views on issues, not potential embarrassing misstatements or actions. But the party posted a heavily edited video on YouTube last week of Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick (R-Prince William) taunting the cameraman during a committee hearing.

Republicans have vowed to respond, threatening to turn Virginia's once collegial, freewheeling legislature into a partisan game of -- as legislators call it -- "gotcha politics."

"Unfortunately, they are ratcheting it up, and we are going to have our groups respond," said Republican Del. H. Morgan Griffith (Salem), the House majority leader. "Both sides can play that game."

The first of what could be many election-year battles took place Thursday, when House Republicans defeated minimum wage proposals without recording the vote. In a day filled with maneuvering and posturing, a Republican-controlled subcommittee decided by voice vote not to bring the issue before the full Commerce and Labor Committee.

Seven minimum wage bills, including two sponsored by Republicans, were defeated on a voice vote in the subcommittee. The bills would have raised the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to between $7 and $8.15 an hour by 2009.

Democrats responded by demanding that the full committee -- where a recorded vote could be taken -- override the subcommittee's decision.

Callahan and Robert Tata (R-Virginia Beach) sided with the Democrats, but the motion to force a recorded vote failed 10 to 10. Democrats then put the video of the proceedings on a party blog.


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