The National Taxpayers Union criticized official White House videographer Hope Hall on Wednesday, alleging that her position blurs the line between legitimate government functions and political campaigning.
Both Hall and her predecessor, Arun Chaudhary, produced videos for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, according to The Washington Guardian.
The videographer’s role is similar to that of the White House photographer, filming the president during speeches, meetings with foreign leaders, White House celebrations and other events. When those events are closed to reporters, the White House videographer has exclusive access.
The videographer compiles clips from her footage each week into a short video called “West Wing Week,” which appears on the Obama administration’s website.
Pete Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, told The Daily Caller that he fears taxpayers are subsidizing the President’s reelection campaign. ”West Wing Week” often matches the messages of the Obama’s re-election ads.
“There’s always been a degree of controversy over how a president separates purely official duties and business from campaigning,” Sepp said. “The first step here would at least be to get some cost transparency so that citizens can weigh whether something like this is worth the expense.”
David Almacy, the White House Internet director under President George W. Bush, told TheDC he has similar concerns. “It is taxpayer-funded and the videographer has the ability to take scenes and edit them the way they wish,” he said, “and when you have a White House press corps that’s hundreds of feet away from the Oval Office.”
“The videographer is a federal employee,” Almacy adds, “[and] the power of editing could cause some concerns about perceived propaganda. With average views between 5,000 and 10,000 for most ‘West Wing Week[lies],’ one could argue that the costs associated with producing the weekly installments aren’t providing much value to citizens, especially in tough economic times when Congress and the White House are looking for ways to cut the budget.”
More than a dozen White House officials have refused to comment on the program or identify the specific federal budget line utilized to fund it. In an interview with the Washington Guardian, Chaudhary said he was paid as a federal employee.
When asked about the funding for Chaudhary’s salary and the production of “West Wing Weekly,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz wrote Tuesday, “I just don’t think we’re going to engage here.”