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Illinois Policy Institute loses first court round

Monday, Apr 28, 2014

* Gatehouse

A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit from a writer who was seeking access to areas in the Illinois House and Senate reserved for the news media.

The lawsuit was filed by Scott Reeder and the Illinois Policy Institute. Reeder is employed by the IPI and is listed as a journalist for the Illinois News Network, a project of the IPI.

Reeder said he was unfairly denied access to press boxes in the House and Senate after lawyers for the two chambers said he worked for a lobbying organization, not an independent news operation. House and Senate rules prohibit lobbyists from the media areas in the chambers. Reeder’s lawsuit, though, said media organizations with lobbyists have been granted access in the past.

The court said it was within the purview of the House and Senate to determine who qualified for access to the press boxes. Reeder said he will appeal the decision.

* However, the judge said he’d be open to reconsideration

[U.S. District Judge Colin Bruce] wrote he “remains very interested in the motivation behind (the) defendants’ actions regarding Reeder’s access to the press facilities of the Illinois House and Senate,” adding he’ll closely watch the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ interpretation.

“Should (that court) disagree with this court’s determination that absolute legislative immunity applies to this situation and remand the case, this court would welcome the opportunity to explore the motives behind (the) defendants’ decisions and the opportunity to seek answers to the questions discussed in the introduction to this opinion,” Bruce wrote. […]

Reeder insisted the prohibition against lobbying hasn’t been uniformly applied, and that the institute is a “nonpartisan public-policy research and education organization.”

The defendants countered in court filings that federal case law made clear their internal procedural rules involving press credentials “are fully protected against judicial interference by the doctrine of legislative immunity.”

Bruce concurred with the defendants while acknowledging he has lingering questions about the motives for denying Reeder press credentials, wondering chiefly whether such denials are routine or rare and what the legislative review process in such matters involves. Bruce also said he would like to know whether exceptions or waivers are granted to applicants.

* From Reeder’s employer

“Mike Madigan and John Cullerton claim they have the authority to violate individuals’ rights with impunity when they make decisions on whether to grant press credentials,” said INN attorney Jacob Huebert of the Liberty Justice Center. “They do not. The First Amendment requires that the government provide journalists like Scott Reeder equal access to press facilities, and we will continue the fight for his right to freedom of the press.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 10:46 am:

    Paul Lis ran his lobbying business out of the Tribbies big statehouse press office for years. Before there were cell phones, Dan Egler and Tim Franklin used to take and deliver his phone messages while Lis was out front drinking beer with Joe Harris.

  2. - PublicServant - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 10:51 am:

    Reeder is to journalist and freedom of the press, as Bruce Rauner is to Carhartt and $18 watches.

  3. - justsayin' - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 10:53 am:

    Illinois Policy Institute isn’t non-partisan. It doesn’t really act like a 501c3 entity either. Scott Reeder isn’t acting like a journalist when he is trying to advance the political agenda of IPI as well as its staff’s pocketbooks.

  4. - VanillaMan - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 10:55 am:

    If we kept the press box free of lobbyists, no one would be there, unless you believe that paper publications have no lobbying business with the General Assembly.

    Freedom of the Press? Transparency?
    Bah - This is Illinois!

  5. - Langhorne - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 11:07 am:

    which part is the dog and which part is the tail? a media organization that has lobbyists. or a public policy advocacy group that has pretend news reporters?

  6. - A guy... - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 11:11 am:

    Barring him from the “press box” is doing more for IPI than ignoring questions or making fun of positions. Not the brightest strategy going on here. Now you’ve got a judge openly questioning his own judgment. Not sure this is a loss for IPI.

  7. - Walker - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 11:12 am:

    Personal PAC Press

    NRA Rapid Fire Reporter

    Koch Brothers Chronicle

    AFSCME Action News Service

    Midwives Monthly Monitor

    Now that we have destroyed any idea of an independent “Institute” let’s just destroy the meaning of the word “Press” as used in the Constitution. If you cannot win on the merits, mislead, mislead, mislead.

    I know the margins are fuzzy, but that’s no reason to give up on boundaries completely.

  8. - OldSmoky2 - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    If IPI gets access to the press boxes, then they better start building much, much bigger press boxes in the Statehouse. After all, under IPI’s rationale, any person who works for any 501(c)3 that publishes a newsletter would have the same privileges.

  9. - Dee Lay - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    “After all, under IPI’s rationale, any person who works for any 501(c)3 that publishes a newsletter would have the same privileges.”


  10. - VanillaMan - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 11:55 am:

    I know the margins are fuzzy, but that’s no reason to give up on boundaries completely.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    So keeping boundaries in order to have them isn’t constitutional.

  11. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 12:09 pm:

    Gee VMan, you’re quite the Constitutional scholar.

    Can you fill us all in on the First Amendment issues regarding the IPI getting press box access?

  12. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 12:10 pm:

    I think everyone who posts to this site should have press box privileges. Most of us are as objective as Reeder.

  13. - Larry the Cable Guy - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 12:17 pm:

    Scott Reeder pretends to be a media guy? Now that there’s funny.

  14. - Linus - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 12:58 pm:

    I second Norseman’s emotion; all-in! Question: In the Senate pressbox, where a coat and tie are required, can I wear a cravat tied around my head, like a headband?

  15. - A guy... - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 1:10 pm:

    Just line them all up and make them pass the same set of rules fellas. Then there is no argument. Our beloved leader here has a well deserved seat there. Opt for more not less when it comes to Amendment Numero Uno!

  16. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 1:17 pm:

    –Opt for more not less when it comes to Amendment Numero Uno!–

    What’s the First Amendment issue? Has Congress passed some law keeping Reeder from publishing?

  17. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 1:23 pm:

    The easy solution is to pull the press boxes. In this age that has all proceedings in the House and Senate on video and audio, there is no need for them.

  18. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 1:33 pm:

    === In this age that has all proceedings in the House and Senate on video and audio, there is no need for them. ===

    It’s not just an observation post, reporters can ask legislators questions during session.

    I’d oppose this push by any similar not-for-profit news outlet for reasons expressed above. Do we really want AFSCME, the IMA, IRMA, AARP and every other lobbying group to have access to the House and Senate press boxes? No way. The Illinois Press Association has no access, either, and I would oppose giving it to them as well.

  19. - Tom Joad - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 1:33 pm:

    What is the point of having a press box on the floor of the legislative chambers? They could still sit in the gallery and follow the debates if they need to. Members could still be questioned in hallways, their offices or around the rail.

  20. - Andrew Szakmary - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 1:44 pm:

    Let me see if I have this right: the very same organization that blatantly advocates violating the Illinois State and U.S. Constitutions with respect to pension contracts now argues that its first amendment constitutional rights have been violated. Sorry, IPI, you reap what you sow.

  21. - Keyser Soze - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 2:10 pm:

    Does Paul Lis still have press privileges?

  22. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Apr 28, 14 @ 7:23 pm:

    My grandmother was an honest-to-goodness newspaper reporter across seven decades in Illinois.

    Scott Reeder is an insult to journalism, his claim an affront to Democracy.

    I hope the judge’s suspicions are correct and this denial indeed rare.

    It takes some audacity for a pr flak to claim he is a journalist.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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