Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) calls him “my dear friend,” and says he is part of an “amazing group of people” who have aided her political career. Bill Murat enjoys a special kind of relationship with his boss that is not common to all chief’s of staff in the United States Senate.
In addition to being Baldwin’s chief of staff, Murat appears to be the political “fixer” the junior Wisconsin senator is relying on to help her survive a slow burning controversy.
Earlier this year it became public that Baldwin’s office last year acquired a copy of a damning report from the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General detailing shortcomings and failures at the Tomah, Wisconsin VA facility. For months before and after receiving the report, several whistleblowers contacted Baldwin’s office to complain of misconduct at the Tomah clinic.
Then a veteran died.
When her actions – or stunning inaction – were questioned by the media, Baldwin blamed her staff. Then she fired the one staffer, Marquette Baylor, who appears to have been most interested in actually doing something about the abuses at the Tomah VA clinic.
On April 20, Baylor, who worked in Baldwin’s Milwaukee office as the deputy state director for constituent services, filed a complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics alleging misconduct on the part of Baldwin and her top staff. The complaint depicts a Senate office in perpetual disorganization and indicates that Baldwin is relying heavily on her chief of staff, Murat, to manage her response to the Tomah VA scandal.
After firing Baylor, Murat demanded she sign a confidentiality agreement preventing her from discussing the office’s lack of response to the Tomah situation. “Murat handed me a Confidential Transition Agreement and Release and Waiver. In addition to paying me for vacation time and keeping me on the payroll through May, 2015, the proposed agreement included a confidentiality clause that would prohibit me from discussing anything that happened with respect to the VA issues,” Baylor relates in her complaint.
The complaint also lays out instances in which Murat tried to stifle further investigation by Baldwin’s caseworkers into the concerns raised by whistleblowers.
The 57 year-old Murat’s relationship with Baldwin goes back to the mid-1990s, when the two served in the state Assembly together for two legislative sessions. Baldwin represented a Madison area district, and Murat represented a Stevens Point area district. According to the Wisconsin Blue Book, a biannual publication of state statistics and state government proceedings, Murat served on two committees with Baldwin during his first term – the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities and the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Corrections.
When Murat left the legislature at the end of 1998, Speaker Pro Tempore Stephen Freese (R) commented that, “Rep. Bill Murat will be leaving without having passed a single piece of legislation in the time he has been here.”
During Baldwin’s successful bid for Congress in 1998, Murat donated $1,000 to her campaign. He has since stopped giving to Baldwin, but between 1995 and 2014 he gave $6,775 to Democratic candidates in Wisconsin.
After winning her seat in Congress, Baldwin rewarded Murat with a job in her office. In 2001, Murat was promoted to chief of staff, a title and responsibility he maintained when Baldwin became a U.S. Senator in 2013. “Bill brings tremendous talent, experience and energy to the job. His familiarity with the district, the state and the legislative process make him a great asset for me, my staff and the people I represent,” Baldwin said when she promoted Murat to her office’s top job.
As Baldwin’s chief of staff, Murat made $164,738 in 2014.
Prior to becoming a state lawmaker in 1995, Murat was a Portage County District Attorney from 1988 to 1991. After serving in the legislature he changed his residence to Madison according to voter registration records, although he hasn’t voted in a Wisconsin election since 2006. According to Washington D.C. voter records, he registered to vote as a D.C. resident starting in 2007. He presently lives in an apartment in D.C.’s trendy Du Pont Circle neighborhood.
What happens next for Murat and Baldwin remains to be seen as details continue to emerge about their inaction regarding VA misconduct they knew about. One thing is for sure, however: Murat is Baldwin’s go-to person to staunch the political bleeding and he has no problem attempting to silence people who could reveal even more damaging details.
Marquette Baylor complaint: Baylor__4-20-15_Select+Committee+on+Ethics+-+Ethics+Complaint1