Shenanigans with Capitol press access

May 9, 2012

By Katy Grimes

I’ve written several times about the ridiculous hassles I’ve had with the many press credential hold-ups with the Assembly Speaker’s press office.

Today I inquired with Assembly Speaker John Perez’s press office about approval for a press pass to Gov. Jerry Brown’s May Revise, and was told that this time the Governor’s office was handling the press passes. When I inquired at the Governor’s office, they told me that my Governor’s Press Credential would be sufficient.

However, the Governor’s office could not tell me the date of the May Revise, and said they had not made a formal announcement yet.

That’s funny – I heard from other Capitol staffers that they were informed that the May revise will be held on Monday May 14.

Shenanigans Abound

In January when the Legislature reconveyened after the holiday break, as I sat down in the Assembly, I was informed by Speaker Perez’s office that the desk I had regularly used inside the Assembly chambers was no longer available to me. They relegated me to the only “Visiting Media” desk in the farthest, darkest back corner of the room.

This is really funny since I am one of two reporters who regularly covers the Assembly. The other 11 media desks sit vacant–Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Bloomberg, AP, Riverside Press Enterprise, and other media desks are always empty.

I don’t really care–I can work anywhere. But with all of the empty desks, this was a really petty move.

Shortly after the desk incident, I was given the runaround and finally denied access to the Governor’s State-of-the-State address. On the day of the event, the Assembly Speaker’s Press office instead sent me to an “overflow media” room in the Capitol on the fourth floor and implied that there were many media people excluded from the State-of-the-State address. Apparently this was just for moi, since I was the only media person sent to the giant overflow room, which was dark and locked when I arrived.

Very funny.

And shortly after that event, I received word that CalWatchdog’s 2012 credential renewal applications were the only Capitol media not on the list for approval by the Assembly Rules Committee. My editor placed several calls to the Capitol Correspondents Association, who assured us that our 2012 credentials would be approved, and that in the meantime, our 2011 credentials would be honored. Eventually we received the updated credentials.

I find it interesting that approval for press credentials in the State Capitol comes from the legislative body in which we investigate, report and write about.

Back in time

This all started with CalWatchdog’s original application for Capitol press credentials in 2009 when we first started up. After being told that the press credential approval process would take just a couple of weeks, we were stunned when it took seven months to receive approval for our press credentials. And yes, I said seven months.

Former Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass’s office first held up our press credentials. Despite numerous phone calls, formal letters, and in-person inquiries, no one in Bass’s office could or would tell us if and when the credentials would be approved, or what the holdup was.

However, lack of formal credentials did not stop us from reporting from the Capitol. But we were unable to gain entrance to the Assembly and Senate press bay, or to the Assembly and Senate chambers.

After Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, was sworn in, the problem got worse.

I made more than 10 in-person requests to Perez’s office and the Capitol Correspondents Association about the status of CalWatchdog’s press credentials. And each time I was told that they still didn’t have the credentials approved, and in fact, often claimed that they didn’t even know where the applications were.

The arrogance was astounding.

During the process, I came across the mission statement for the Capitol Correspondents Association, and it was with some irony that I read, “The mission of the Capitol Correspondents Association of California is to make it easier for news professionals who cover the state Capitol to do their jobs.”

And in 2012, the games just continue.

In January of this year when I received additional information from an Assembly staffer that the Speaker’s office had rearranged the press desks in the Assembly because “there were five desks assigned to news organizations that no longer have Sacramento bureaus,” I knew something hinky was going on.

The Speaker’s office reported, “As a result, we’ve updated the desks to best reflect the current roster of credentialed print reporters, as well as clearly identifying desks that are used by both the majority and minority leadership staff.”

What a bunch of children.

First Amendment

Maybe a refresher course on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is needed. The First Amendment prohibits infringing on the freedom of the press. “Congress shall make no law … abridging freedom of speech, or of the press.” The Speech and Press Clauses of the Constitution mean that government officials cannot restrict public debate about public affairs.

And this includes media access to government meetings.

The push back we are seeing hinges on a political system based on the will of the people and a press free of government control.

But that’s a discussion for another day.

I’ll follow up Monday, hopefully from the Governor’s May revise.

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  1. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 9 May, 2012, 16:35

    I bet George Skelton and his ilk never have a problem getting press passes or special invitations to the pol events in Sactown, Katy.

    I am not in your business but I surmise that there is great bias against independent blog writes versus mainstream press in Sactown.

    We know that we cannot trust the mainstream press on practially anything political. They lie to us on a routine basis. It is very difficult to constantly read articles with critical thinking skills. Some of these reporters lie so much that I just totally avoid their articles because it requires too much effort to sift through all the lies and untruths. And these are not columnist who get paid for an opinion. I am talking your nuts and bolts reporters on the streets who are only supposed to report the facts.

    I have lost all faith in the mainstream press in America. All bought and paid for. Owned lock, stock and barrel. Sad but true.

    The only way you can beat them is to join them and become part of the scam, Katy. Otherwise you will always be considered an “outsider” to them. Sorry, that’s the way of the world in 2012.

    Reply this comment
  2. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 9 May, 2012, 17:21

    This is more evidence that California has devolved into a Third World status, with the lack of a free press. Jerry Brown is a bland Juan Peron.

    — John Seiler, Managing Editor.

    Reply this comment
  3. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 9 May, 2012, 17:54

    No crap, JS. With each passing day I feel like I’m walking around Red Square while biding my time and waiting for another changing for the guard. But the new guard is the same as the old guard. The faces change but the behavior stays the same.

    Getting to the point that I would rather watch “Hee-Haw” than the six o’clock news. At least I walk away entertained and have a semblance of respect for the comics. The comics on the six o’clock news anger me as they lie with a straight face. If they burst out in laughter once in a while as they told us their lies I would be much more forgiving and might even become a frequent viewer.

    Reply this comment
  4. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 9 May, 2012, 21:12

    Exactly right Beelzebub – no other media outlet goes through this in the CA Capitol.

    And where the reason for this becomes obvious is when you read a story I write, and read another media account of the same event. I write about how the sausage is made, and most others write a kindler, gentler version, or are heavily edited so their ‘seat at the table’ isn’t threatened.

    Being an independent/conservative/libertarian/mind-of-my-own apparently bothers those in power.


    Reply this comment
  5. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 9 May, 2012, 22:31

    Yes, I agree, Katy. What I like about CWD is that you don’t pull any punches. I don’t agree with every single CWD blog from a philosopical point of view – the detail your reporters provide is unsurpassed. The articles leave nothing to the imagination. And after I read one I rarely need you to fill something in. The mainstream press is a joke. HUGE HOLES in the reporting that I could drive a truck through. After I read their articles on politics or current events I have nothing but questions. Sometimes the spellling and grammar is even atrocious. I am not a wizard when it comes to the english language – but I expect professional journalists to have impeccable writing skills and if they don’t I expect the editor to clean it up before it’s published. I wonder where the hell they hire some of these mainstream newspaper reporters from?

    I imagine that you are treated by the Sactown bureaucracy sort of like a black person would have been treated back in the 1940’s when she tried to get into a rich white country club. But naturally the dems in Sactown don’t view it that way. If your opinion differs from theirs you are automatically inferior. The dem bureaucracy is incapable of discrimination, of course.

    Keep the faith.

    Reply this comment
  6. I'mjustsaying...
    I'mjustsaying... 10 May, 2012, 07:57

    This is another demonstration of the absurdity of those who are supposed to have the voters’ and state’s best interest as their utmost priority. What it really demonstrates is that elected officials don’t like transparency when it translates into reflecting their own self-serving ways. Clearly they like to keep their heads in the sand AND if they don’t have to read about it…then it must not be true. Keep up the great work Katy and CalWatchDog.

    Reply this comment
  7. queeg
    queeg 10 May, 2012, 08:18

    There has to be a sinister outcome here…

    Why would anyone want to talk to the bought and paid for political class?

    Have a good lunch and do something truly productive!

    Reply this comment
  8. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 10 May, 2012, 09:59

    “What it really demonstrates is that elected officials don’t like transparency when it translates into reflecting their own self-serving ways. Clearly they like to keep their heads in the sand AND if they don’t have to read about it…then it must not be true”

    All of them took a sworn oath upon entering office to uphold the US and State Constitutions. But in practice they abuse and tarnish the 1st Amendment by only selectively granting ‘freedom of the press’. They inconvenience and place huge obstacles in front of those reporters who report the truth and shine the light of transparency on their actions. If they had the power to jail reporters like Katy – they would do it in a NYC minute. Since they cannot be jailed (at least not today) the dem bureaucracy conducts underhanded and deceitful tactics that make it as hard as possible on those who report the truth for the public to read. We really aren’t that far away from Berlin 1939 or Moscow 1962.

    Reply this comment
  9. Hondo
    Hondo 10 May, 2012, 14:32

    The Speaker and the Democrats haven’t got the message yet, this is the information age. Good hard working journalists like Katy will get the information they need somewhere on the net in an matter of minutes unless it involves FOIA and there really is a problem there. And no matter how they try to control the flow of information and journalists,it becomes a lot like herding cats (those super bowl commercials where they herd cats are truly funny).
    Perhaps the Speaker should try putting out a better message so he won’t have to hide it.

    Reply this comment
  10. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 10 May, 2012, 16:48

    I have observed over an dover again-first hand- that the more you criticize government the more they try to chill your 1st Amendment rights-to free speech and to petition government.

    Reply this comment
  11. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 10 May, 2012, 16:51

    This is more evidence that California has devolved into a Third World status, with the lack of a free press. Jerry Brown is a bland Juan Peron.
    – John Seiler, Managing Editor.

    I have been saying this the last 2 years, we look more like a banana republic today than the true America, where if you criticize the government you are retaliated against, they try to chill your 1st Amendment and free speech rights.

    Reply this comment
  12. queeg
    queeg 10 May, 2012, 16:56

    Oh! So abused.

    PC is your biggest fear….not the government.

    Reply this comment
  13. Hank
    Hank 12 May, 2012, 09:31

    The California government is modeled after the “Three Monkeys” , hear, see and speak. It only continues if they conspire, sorry act in a bi-partisan way. Real reporters could ruin the illusion.

    Reply this comment

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