An employee of the right-leaning Illinois Policy Institute sued the two Democratic legislative leaders and their respective press secretaries Tuesday after being denied credentials that would allow access to the House and Senate press boxes.
Scott Reeder, whom the Illinois Policy Institute describes as its “journalist in residence,” claimed in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Springfield that his First and 14th Amendment rights had been violated by the decision. […]
“You are ineligible at this time to obtain a Senate media credential because you are employed by the Illinois News Network, which is part of and an assumed name for, the Illinois Policy Institute,” wrote Eric Madiar, chief legal counsel to Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, in a letter to Reeder rejecting his application for floor credentials.
“As such, the Illinois News Network is not per the guidelines ‘owned and operated independently of any industry, institution, association or lobbying organization,’” Madiar wrote in his Jan. 16 letter to Reeder.
In Tuesday’s lawsuit, Reeder alleged the no-lobbying prohibition has not been evenly enforced since floor privileges were granted to reporters for the Chicago Tribune despite it being a registered lobbying entity in Springfield in 2000 and hiring lobbyists in 2002 and 2003.
Reeder’s lawsuit described his employer, the Illinois Policy Institute, as a not-for-profit, “non-partisan public-policy research and education organization that promotes personal and economic freedom in Illinois.”
* The lobbying issue is mostly a red herring because the Illinois Policy Institute’s attorney wrote a letter to both chamber leaders saying it would not register as a lobbying entity this year.
That’s an interesting development on its own, but let’s move along.
*** UPDATE *** A good point from a commenter…
[ *** End Of Update *** ]
Madiar’s argument, as I understand it, is in part that there is no meaningful distinction between IPI and Illinois Policy Action, the name under which IPI is now engaged in lobbying. The same people that registered as lobbyists for IPI are now registered as lobbyists for IPA, which in turn appears to be nothing more than an attempt by IPI to pretend that it’s separating it’s “lobbying” activities from its “think tank” activities (God help us all when IPI is busy “thinking,” let alone lobbying).
Under Madiar’s argument, the IPI attorney’s assertion that IPI is no longer engaged as a lobbying entity would therefore appear to be meaningless - again, a difference without a distinction.
Incidentally, it’s interesting to note that IPI’s half-hearted attempt to couch its lobbying activity under a new and separate name follows Rich’s criticism on this blog. Rich called them out, and now they’re trying to shield themselves.
* Reeder’s lawsuit lays out his news network’s reach…
In a typical month, 60 to 80 newspapers across the state publish news articles and columns by Mr. Reeder or other Illinois News Network journalists.
On information and belief, in the past year alone the Illinois News Network served 109 newspapers with an aggregate circulation of more than one million.
In fact, many of these newspapers lack statehouse reporters of their own and rely on the Illinois News Network for news reporting on state government.
Mr. Reeder has never engaged in any lobbying for IPI or any other organization.
Defendants have never accused Mr. Reeder of personally lobbying legislators or other state officials.
Mr. Reeder is and always has been a journalist, not a lobbyist.
Although Defendants have refused to grant Mr. Reeder press credentials, other governmental bodies have granted him credentials.
In January 2014, for example, Mr. Reeder received press credentials from the Illinois Secretary of State, which allow him access to areas of the Illinois statehouse other than the House and Senate floors, and from the United States Supreme Court.
* Getting to the heart of the matter in the House…
The Lobbyist Registration Act and House Rules’ exclusion of journalists employed by “not-for-profit corporations engaged primarily in endeavors other than the dissemination of news” from House press facilities is not the least restrictive means of serving a compelling governmental interest and therefore violates the right to freedom of the press under the First and Fourteenth Amendments on its face and as applied to Plaintiff Scott Reeder.
Defendants Madigan and Brown’s denial of Plaintiff Scott Reeder’s 2014 request for press credentials on the basis that IPI is “neither a press nor a media organization” was arbitrary and unreasonable and violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment right to freedom of the press. […]
Defendants Madigan and Brown’s denial of Mr. Reeder’s 2014 application for media credentials on the basis that IPI “is neither a press nor a media organization” – in the absence of any statute or rule defining “press organization” or “media organization” – violated his right to due process of law.
Defendants Madigan and Brown’s failure to provide any means of impartial review of their denial of Mr. Reeder’s applications for press credentials violated his right to due process of law.
In addition, the Senate Media Guidelines’ rule denying media credentials to journalists whose employers are not “owned and operated independently of any industry, institution, association, or lobbying organization” is not the least restrictive means of serving a compelling governmental interest and therefore violates the right to freedom of the press under the First and Fourteenth Amendment on its face and as applied to Plaintiff Scott Reeder.
* And this is some of what Reeder wants the court to do…
Declare that the House Rules’ exclusion of journalists employed by “not-for- profit corporations engaged primarily in endeavors other than the dissemination of news” from the House press facilities violates the right to freedom of the press under the First and Fourteenth Amendments on its face and as applied to Plaintiff Scott Reeder.
Declare that the Senate Rules’ exclusion of journalists employed by “not-for- profit corporations engaged primarily in endeavors other than dissemination of news” from the Senate press facilities violates the right to freedom of the press under the First and Fourteenth Amendments on its face as applied to Plaintiff Scott Reeder. […]
Declare that Defendants’ denials of Plaintiff Scott Reeder’s applications on the basis of their belief that the Illinois Policy Institute is a lobbying organization violated his right to equal protection under the law;
* He also wants both leaders “permanently” enjoined from barring his press box access and he wants his attorneys fees, costs and expenses reimbursed.