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*** UPDATED x1 *** Illinois Policy Institute reporter sues after being denied access to press boxes

Wednesday, Feb 5, 2014

* Sun-Times

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…

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.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* 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.

* More

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.

* Senate

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.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

39 Comments
  1. - Norseman - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:07 pm:

    We may need a bigger press box.


  2. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:14 pm:

    I don’t see that denial of credentials has prevented him from reporting and publishing.

    I’m not sure a federal judge will care.


  3. - democrat Grrrl - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:16 pm:

    Scott Reeder is not a journalist. He has an agenda which he promotes in his writing. Don’t be fooled.


  4. - ghost - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:16 pm:

    anyone point me to a non-partisan article from this group supporting a democratic plank?


  5. - Norseman - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:17 pm:

    Actually, I have to separate my personal distaste for the organization from the issue. IPI makes a good argument. At the risk of offending the keeper of this blog - not that I would want to do that, I wonder whether the press box is even necessary other than to allow a convenient place to pigeon hole talkative solons during debate. There is a public gallery available to all. Also, audio and video can be pulled from the internet feed. With the burgeoning growth of web media you’re going to run into more issues challenging the rights of people to sit at the status box.

    P.S. Rich, don’t shoot me. Don’t care enough on this issue to hop up and down and hold my breath.


  6. - cover - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    I agree with Norseman. IMHO, that lawsuit has a decent chance of success, though I’m not so sure that Mr. Reeder could recover his legal costs. Both the House and Senate should take some time to figure out how to define a “media organization” and add that to their respective rules.

    Incidentally, Rich, my local weekly paper carries both Mr. Reeder’s column and your own Capitol Facts. Would the House or Senate exclude you from the press box if you requested access?


  7. - Shadrach Bond - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:19 pm:

    “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” Groucho Marx


  8. - RNUG - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:21 pm:

    My only lobbying activities are posting on this blog and writing the occasional letter to the editor or to my congress persons. As the editor of a small international hobbyist newsletter published by an NFP, I probably have just as legitimate, if not more legitimate, claim to statehouse press credentials … but I’d never dream of applying for them.

    I don’t see where Mr. Reeder is being harmed, other than being forced to sit with the general public instead of being guaranteed a seat in the press box.


  9. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:30 pm:

    cover, I have press box access.


  10. - PoolGuy - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:33 pm:

    he wants the street cred


  11. - W - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:34 pm:

    “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.”

    This is a disturbing indictment of Illinois newspapers.


  12. - Newsclown - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:40 pm:

    Reeder WAS a journalist, now working for a non-credentialed organization that asserts it is a journalism operation. The Trib, despite what they look like in the editorial section, IS a credentialed and legitimate news-gathering organization of long standing.

    What does the Press Association say IPI is? What do Reeders’ peers say?

    If the House and Senate can’t keep out anybody that wears a self-made “press” button, that box is going to be full of cranks and PR people with agendas, posing as impartial journalists.

    Remember that guy that was always butting-in with irrelevant questions in public news conferences, claiming that buying air time on WIND made him a credentialed journalist? I think everybody knows IPI is a front for people with a certain agenda. They’ve banked on Reeder’s reputation to get them past the gate-keepers.


  13. - Newsclown - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:41 pm:

    I say, Reeder WAS a journalist, now working for a non-credentialed organization that asserts it is a journalism operation. The Trib, despite what they look like in the editorial section, IS a credentialed and legitimate news-gathering organization of long standing.

    What does the Press Association say IPI is? What do Reeders’ peers say?

    If the House and Senate can’t keep out anybody that wears a self-made “press” button, that box is going to be full of cranks and PR people with agendas, posing as impartial journalists.

    Remember that guy that was always butting-in with irrelevant questions in public news conferences, claiming that buying air time on WIND made him a credentialed journalist? I think everybody knows IPI is a front for people with a certain agenda. They’ve banked on Reeder’s reputation to get them past the gate-keepers.


  14. - BMAN - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:55 pm:

    Although I am not totally familiar with Reeder’s work, I see this as another example politician effort to reduce tranparency. When will others be ready to say enough is enough. Make and hold the governor and legislature accountable, don’t give them an alibi.


  15. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:06 pm:

    I’m not sure where I stand on this. I think he should probably be given press credentials.

    On another note, and has others have pointed out, I’m a bit disturbed that news outlets pick up the IPI’s stuff as “news.” That’s disturbing to me. Also, I wish the IPI would stop branding itself as non-partisan. Anybody with half a brain can see that they are anything but non-partisan.


  16. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    ==I see this as another example politician effort to reduce tranparency==

    Dude, anybody can go in the House and Senate chambers and see what’s going on. Your comment makes absolutely no sense when it comes to this story.


  17. - justsaying' - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:14 pm:

    Newsclown, at least get your story straight. The guy who was on WIND was also under contract with the Communities at Washington Times. What IPI is doing is not at all the same thing.


  18. - cover - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:29 pm:

    Thanks for the info, Rich.

    BTW, I saw an odd-looking headline in the Bing newsfeed earlier today, the story was about the Edmonton Oilers. I guess Bing picked up a reference in that story to the “other” Pat Quinn. It seems to have gone away now.


  19. - Pmels - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:29 pm:

    Why are Democrats in Springfield so afraid of opposing view points? (rhetorical, because I know the answer) I think it is important to protect our rights from government overreach, even if the manifestation is a bit trivial. Kudos to these guys.


  20. - Commander Norton - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:45 pm:

    Scott Reeder isn’t a journalist, and he writes purely to further an agenda. But to be fair, there are organizations on the other end of the spectrum that do the same thing. I enjoy reading the Chicago Catalyst, for example. But they are published by the Community Renewal Society, which I’m almost certain engages in lobbying activities. Could/does their reporter have a press pass?

    RNUG - There’s no harm in being forced to sit with the general public except that if you want video or audio (even to record the proceedings so you make sure to get an exact quote from floor debate), you have to have press credentials and the permission of the chair. Recording on your phone, tablet or other device from the gallery will get you thrown out of there in very short order. Those doormen/women may not be as young as they used to be, but they move fast.


  21. - Raymond - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:51 pm:

    === 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. ===

    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.


  22. - GA Watcher - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    I know someone who used to be President of the Heritage Foundation in Washington. For years, he wrote a column that was syndicated in newspapers across the country, including the Chicago Sun-Times. He never once considered himself to be a journalist. He saw the column as an opportunity to spread Heritage’s conservative gospel among the masses.


  23. - countyline - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:55 pm:

    - (even to record the proceedings so you make sure to get an exact quote from floor debate), you have to have press credentials and the permission of the chair. Recording on your phone, tablet or other device from the gallery will get you thrown out of there in very short order-

    Transparency, indeed.


  24. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:58 pm:

    Do any groups such as Progress Illinois receive a press pass?

    If so, then INN should as well.

    If not, then either all should get a press pass or none should.

    That’s the only fair way to do things.

    It also sounds like INN is emphasizing the “news” aspect ahead of the old “lobbying” aspect of things. While their “news” will still obviously have a “slant”, it is ultimately up to the newspapers to choose whether or not their stories are newsworthy. If no one runs their stories, they will either adapt or die.

    Sort of like viewers and publishers choosing whether the stories on MSNBC or FOX News are newsworthy. Despite their “slant”, most consumers and other journalists still choose to rely on them as “news” organizations and consider them members of the press.


  25. - Raymond - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 1:59 pm:

    Whoops, that’s “… distinction without a difference …”

    Time for more coffee.


  26. - R.I.P. journalism - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 2:00 pm:

    If this goes through, you should just go ahead and issue press credentials to every communications person with an association or union. You’ll have to also let them ask questions in the Blue Room and at other interview sessions.
    Blame the idiot editors at all the newspapers who run his crap for this.


  27. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 2:12 pm:

    ===such as Progress Illinois==

    I don’t think they have one.


  28. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    === I don’t think they have one ===

    If not, then it sounds like they are applying the same standard fairly and equally.

    Plus, after that update, so much for my comment giving them credit for reducing emphasis on lobbying, lol.


  29. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 2:18 pm:

    === I don’t see that denial of credentials has prevented him from reporting and publishing. ===

    That may be true, but I’m sure IPI’s argument will be, at least in part, that if the government is going to adopt certain policies — in this case, press box policies — they need to be uniformly applied. If the Trib or Sun-Times were denied credentials, there would be an outcry, even if their reporters can do the same work outside of the press box. And no.. I don’t think IPI reporting is the equivalent of Trib or Sun-Times reporting.


  30. - Commander Norton - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 2:19 pm:

    –Blame the idiot editors at all the newspapers who run his crap for this.–

    Exactly. Blame the papers that run the BGA’s stuff, too. I know which entity I agree with more often, but neither one is a media outlet, and the folks who write for them aren’t journalists. End of story.


  31. - sal-says - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 2:45 pm:

    ==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.==

    Yes. I regularly see these ‘articles’ in a downstate/northern IL free weekly ‘newspaper’ which is published in a small, heavily conservative republican county. From what I’ve read, the ‘articles’ seem to me to be more biased ‘commentary’ than factual ‘journalist’ articles. Maybe I’ve missed something?


  32. - Name Withheld - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 2:50 pm:

    This could be an interesting suit if it proceeds to trial.

    Recently, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that bloggers have the same protections as traditional journalists.

    http://verdict.justia.com/2014/02/03/ninth-circuit-holds-correctly-blogger-defamation-protection-journalist

    It held that in defamation suits, bloggers and citizen journalists are at par with the professional journalists. The legal standards for judging their actions should be the same in relation to the First Amendment. While Illinois isn’t in the 9th Circuit, the case does exist for reference, and could be used to open the door for affording citizen journalists other privileges currently afforded to the traditional press.

    Here’s a link to the actual opinion from the court:
    http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2014/01/17/12-35238.pdf


  33. - walker - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    Either we have “the Press” or we do not.

    Open and shut case, IMO. Not by any stretch is IPI, IPA, or whatever they want to call themselves, anything more than a lobbying organization.

    Are ACLU, NOW, Tax Watch, or anyone like them claiming to be “Press?”

    Reeder, has a good reporting background; unfortunately he is stuck with an organization which doesn’t qualify.

    Why not just fill the press box with all the lobbyists?


  34. - Republican Reeder - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 3:10 pm:

    Most Journalists I know headline Republican fundraisers.

    http://www.qconline.com/archives/qco/print_display.php?id=454628


  35. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 3:14 pm:

    RR, Scott is from that area. He knows tons of people there. No surprise that he’d be invited to speak to a local group.

    When Rod was governor, I was invited to speak at the mansion to a Dem women’s group. I was booed. Often. And loudly. Topic: Rod’s a bad guy.

    lol


  36. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 3:17 pm:

    Eliminating all special privileges for the press is an equitable solution, too. Set up a bull pen with tables and chairs that any visitor to the capital can use.


  37. - Republican Reeder - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    Rich, how much money did the event raise for the Democratic party?


  38. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 3:21 pm:

    It was the women’s group. Not sure, but I got paid my usual amount.


  39. - HappyCamper - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 7:11 pm:

    If anti-teacher scribe Scott Reeder wants to be a journalist and not a lobbyist, then he should quit working for the lobby firm funded by Bruce Rauner and his “right wing” cohorts. According to reporter Bernie Schoenburg,”Bruce Rauner has contributed more than $500,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute which employs Scott Reeder.”

    Reeder was a respected journalist, but since taking payment Bruce Rauner, Scott’s credibility has been compromised.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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