Needless to say, the #nhpolitics press will lose their minds if the House imposes any discipline on Representative Sherry Frost, aka Representative Potty-Mouth. Their coverage has ignored Potty-Mouth’s clear violations of House rules, while portraying Republicans as throwing stones from a glass house. For example, from the Concord Monitor:
As Republican Rep. Al Baldasaro criticized Frost’s online comments and defended his own past statement that Hillary Clinton should face a firing squad, House candidate Joshua Adjutant yelled at him from across the room to “shut the f— up.”
Democratic Rep. Ellen Read questioned why a male lawmaker wasn’t admonished by GOP leaders after she said he refused to take down a Facebook post calling Frost a “c—.” Read’s utterance of the swear drew loud gasps from the crowd and a stern word from the committee chairman.
But as Kimberly Morin has noted in her blog New Hampshire Political Buzz, it is undeniable that Representative Potty-Mouth has violated the principles of conduct set forth at the outset of the Ethics Guidelines. More specifically, the following:
During a public hearing of a House Committee she sits on, Potty-Mouth took a picture of a person’s written testimony, which contained the person’s name, and tweeted the picture along with commentary mocking the person for reading the testimony:
Apparently, Representative Potty-Mouth wants the House to believe that she can’t be disciplined for her tweeting because that would violate her right to free speech:
Potty-Mouth’s lawyer, about whose participation in the hearing I posted here, either doesn’t understand the First Amendment or is trying to mislead the House to the extent that his position is that the tweet discussed above is constitutionally protected.
The tweet discussed above occurred during a House hearing, not on Potty-Mouth’s personal time. The House, or any committee of the House, could prohibit tweeting altogether during House hearings.
To the extent that the First Amendment is implicated, the House clearly has a compelling interest in preventing its own members from discouraging the public from participating in public hearings. Potty-Mouth’s derogatory tweet clearly does discourage public participation, so the First Amendment does not prevent the House from disciplining her for failing to treat the public “with dignity and respect.”
In addition to this violation, Representative Potty-Mouth acted in a contemptuous manner toward the House during the hearing before the Legislative Administration Committee. As I wrote in a previous post:
A first-term representative from Dover, Frost brought a lawyer to the hearing and declined to take committee questions or be sworn in under oath. She read from a one-page statement saying her comments are hyperbole.
The committee should have immediately voted to request that the House find Frost in contempt for her refusal to be sworn in and her refusal to answer questions, and moved on to the next witness. Instead the committee allowed Frost and her lawyer to make fools of the committee.
To sum up, we have identified to this point two independently sufficient grounds for the House to discipline Representative Potty-Mouth: (1) her derogatory tweet during committee hearing about a member of the public and (2) her contemptuous refusal to cooperate with the Legislative Administration Committee this past Wednesday. There is a third potential basis for discipline.
As noted by former Representative Leon Rideout:
The law in question actually sets a $50.00 threshold, but Twomey’s representation of Representative Potty-Mouth clearly would have exceeded $50.00 and, therefore, would be a violation of law if it was done for free or if others paid for it, directly or indirectly:
14-C:3 Prohibition on Gifts; Duty to Report. –
I. It shall be unlawful to knowingly give any gift as defined in this chapter, directly or indirectly, to any legislator or legislative employee.
II. It shall be unlawful to knowingly give any gift as defined in this chapter, directly or indirectly, to any household member, as defined in this chapter, of any legislator or legislative employee, with a purpose of influencing or affecting the official conduct of such legislator or employee.
III. It shall be unlawful for any legislator or legislative employee to solicit or to knowingly accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, as defined in this chapter, or to fail to meet the reporting requirements of this chapter.
In sum, we have two definite grounds for the House to discipline Representative Potty-Mouth and a potential third ground. So back to the question posed in the title to this post, what will Speaker Jasper do, given that the #nhpolitics press clearly does not think Potty-Mouth should be disciplined at all.
My feeling is that Jasper will choose to eschew the opprobrium of the #nhpolitics press and will direct his minions on the Legislative Administration Committee to not push for discipline for Potty-Mouth for her violation of the rules and her contemptuous acts.