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Is Senate Press Gallery 'corrupt'?

Posted By Paul Sperry On 08/30/2002 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

WASHINGTON – The fundamental job of journalists in this town, at least in their traditional role as government watchdogs, is to keep politicians honest so they don’t abuse their power.

But what if the journalists aren’t honest, and what if they abuse their power?

Five journalists known collectively as the Standing Committee of Correspondents for the Senate Daily Press Gallery have the little-known but exceptional power of choosing fellow scribes to cover Congress with them through a loosely defined, largely unregulated procedure not much unlike choosing sides for a game of stickball.

Their veto power is not limited to the legislative branch. They also can prevent reporters from covering key presidential events, such as the national party conventions, Inauguration Day and the State of the Union.

If you don’t get a press pass from them, you don’t get in. It’s as simple as that.

They get that power from Congress. By acting pursuant to congressional power, of course, they are bound by the same oath to uphold the Constitution.

Yet they deliberate in secret on applicants for press credentials, sometimes adjudicating without even taking a
vote.

They hold no regular meetings. They don’t meet in the same place. They don’t announce their meetings or agendas in
advance. And they don’t make records of their meetings public.

“Clearly there’s a problem with secrecy in the gallery,” said Patrick Clawson, former member of the Executive Committee for the Senate Periodicals Gallery.

“It’s a closed and corrupt system,” he added, “and it’s gotten extremely political in recent years.”

WorldNetDaily.com, Inc. has been doing battle against this system for the past 19 months. On Feb. 8, 2001, the popular newssite, with more than 2.5 million readers, applied for permanent daily credentials to cover Congress like the other gallery members, including Beijing’s Xinhua News Agency.

A year later, on Jan. 29, the Standing Committee denied its application. The case is on appeal before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which has governing authority over the quasi-governmental body of journalists.

Litigation counsel Richard Ackerman, representing WND on behalf of the non-profit United States Justice Foundation, says gallery officials, acting out of political and professional prejudices, have demonstrated a “pattern of deceit” in dealing with WND from the start.

He says they have withheld public information, contradicted themselves, misrepresented facts, misled some of WND’s more than 2.5 million readers and even a U.S. senator, told half-truths and outright falsehoods, broken due-process and procedural rules, and pried into the news-gathering practices of an independent, privately owned for-profit news organization.

By discriminating against WND based on its reporting, Ackerman argues, they have in effect censored WND’s voice in the people’s Congress and violated its First Amendment rights as a member of the free press.

Clawson put it less gently: “They have urinated on the Constitution.”

A “pattern of deceit,” dissembling and circumlocution has indeed emerged. For example:

“They clearly have not acted in good faith, and this entire chain of events casts doubt on their honesty not just as journalists, but as individuals,” said WND founder and Editor Joseph Farah. “Yet these are the men and women not only covering Congress, but deciding who else can cover Congress.”

“The American people deserve better,” he added.

Read list of all daily Senate Press Gallery members with contact numbers (requires Adobe Acrobat to
download)

Previous stories:

Media gatekeepers wrap selves in flag

Senate press cop’s past grows even sketchier

Press cop has own qualification problems

Senator misled by press police

WND files appeal with Sen. Dodd, Speaker Hastert

Senate press police withhold public info

Press gallery backpedals from earlier WND stand

E-mails contradict press gallery claims

Senate press boss ‘lies’ to WND readers

Senate press cop breaks her silence

In secret meeting, press police yank WND day pass

Shake-up at the Senate Press Gallery


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