Liberal group complains GOP lawmakers bar them from meetings

From The Colorado Independent’s Pam Zubeck:

ProgressNow Colorado has taken stands on candidates and issues, and mostly has come down on the left side of things. And for new Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman, that means he gets to tell the group to scram when it sends someone to cover Republican meetings.
He didn’t actually say that, but Cadman leads the Colorado Senate Republicans, who barred a ProgressNow reporter from its meeting recently where upcoming legislation was discussed.

You know, we can’t have any of those “liberal blogger” types listening in on a bunch of conservative lawmakers, right?

So now ProgressNow is demanding that Cadman take the lead to obey Colorado Open Meetings laws. It’s also asked Cadman to disclose the connections his business has to certain GOP-linked political action committees and candidates.

Here’s a news release the group sent earlier today:

Responding to the unlawful exclusion of a ProgressNow Colorado staff member from a Republican press event at the Colorado Capitol last week, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization demanded that Senate President Bill Cadman and the Colorado Senate Republicans stop violating Colorado’s Open Meetings Law immediately.

The organization also restated its call for President Cadman to fully disclose income, relationships, and other potential conflicts of interest between his campaign vendor private business, his leadership position in the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and his role as President of the Colorado Senate. [1]

“For Colorado Senate Republicans to illegally exclude a member of my staff from a press availability covered by Colorado’s Open Meetings Law is totally unacceptable,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “President Cadman didn’t even wait to be sworn in before breaking the promises he made to be fair and transparent. It shouldn’t be necessary to file suit to force legislative leaders to follow the law, but we cannot allow lawmakers to disregard their most important obligation—to conduct the people’s business openly.”

On Monday, January 5th, Colorado Senate Democrats and Republicans each held separate press availability sessions to discuss the 2014 legislative session. ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin attended the Democratic press event without incident, but was prevented from entering the room in which Senate Republican leaders were talking with reporters after being identified as a “liberal blogger.”

ProgressNow Colorado’s attorney Mark Grueskin responded to this incident with a letter restating the Open Meetings Law as it applies to the Colorado General Assembly. Read Grueskin’s letter on the Open Meetings Law here.  Jan_9_letter_to_Alan_Franklin.pdf
“The Open Meetings Law requires that certain sessions involving policy making officials be open to the public when the meeting is held and any public business is discussed,” said Grueskin. “Public business is not specifically defined by the Open Meetings Law, but it clearly involves legislative proposals.”

“The actions of Senate Republican staff to exclude my staff from this press conference were indefensible and unlawful,” said Runyon-Harms. “There is no exception in the Open Meetings Law for those with whom you disagree politically. There was no attempt to exclude anyone from the Democratic press briefing based on political views. Bill Cadman and the Senate Republicans have made a mockery of open and accessible government out of partisan political spite, and if it happens again, we’ll see them in court.”

We sent Cadman an email asking him for a comment but haven’t heard back. If and when we do, we’ll update.

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