With the subject of his ire working in the press bay, Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar called for the removal of a liberal documentary journalist on Thursday, saying only accredited media are allowed to access the floor of the chambers.
"I would ask that the sergeant at arms enforce the rules of the Senate," Huff said,
The office of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had issued a one-day pass to James Gannon, who trekked to Sacramento from Los Angeles with the group 99Rise as part of their effort to get money out of politics.
Steinberg said Huff's concern was cloaked in the mantel of order and process, but was motivated by his displeasure with the journalist's political views. A conservative blogger like Jon Fleischman of the FlashReport would not have generated that kind of fury, he said.
Two years ago, Steinberg came under heavy criticism and later apologized after canceling television access to a hearing on a ballot measure to hike sales and income taxes.
"Whether it is the FlashReport, or a blogger which supports repeal of Citizen's United, I say as the leader of this chamber 'I welcome you all, so long as you act respectfully,'" Steinberg said, adding lawmakers have agreed to review the rules amid the changing media landscape. "In the meantime, we should err on the side of embracing freedom of the press."
Gannon, who said his background was in producing national cable news, told The Bee that he marched with the group before deciding it best to operate as independent media. Gannon said he wanted to be there to capture the spirit of the legislative process and that his final product would be a work of documentary journalism.
"The intention of my coverage is to be objective," he said.
99Rise organized the march to protest "out-of-control political spending of a small, wealthy elite." It is among the supporters of a bill that passed the Senate Thursday to place on the fall ballot an advisory measure calling for federal action to overturn Citizens United.
Huff insists the group and the reporter's politics have nothing to do with the discussion. Through a spokesman, he said he worried that the chambers were devolving into a political photo-op for groups that want to use the content obtained there to further their own agendas.
"I am ashamed," Huff said. "Change the rules; then we abide by them."
PHOTO: James Gannon, a liberal documentary journalist with ties to the group 99Rise, captures footage of the Senate floor session Thursday. The Sacramento Bee/Christopher Cadelago.