Local political parties are always sending out press releases, calling the media and passing “sense of the party” resolutions, hoping for some coverage. That’s why the current move underway in both of Palm Beach County’s major parties to ban the media from their meetings is stupid and destructive.
The ban is really aimed at BizPac Review’s Michele Kirk and her video camera, but in order to ban Kirk, both parties would have to ban the press entirely in order to avoid potential litigation.
County parties are comprised of volunteer “executive committee members” who represent the voters of their party in the precinct where they live. Committee members are considered elected officials in the state of Florida. Meetings are large, public affairs where elected officials often speak to hundreds of the party’s faithful.
Local parties have two main assets: enthusiastic grass-roots volunteers who knock on doors, make phone calls, etc., and the moral authority to speak on behalf of the voters they represent.
Spokespeople for both parties use that moral authority to criticize elected officials from the other side in the constant struggle to delegitimize the opposition. Often, the criticism leveled at elected officials is about secret deals, private meetings and potential violations of Florida’s Sunshine laws.
Let’s put aside the fact that the voters supposedly represented by these committee members have a right to know what goes on at these large meetings, and how they are being represented.
If the extremists and malcontents who want to conduct the people’s business in secret are successful, they would cause their own party to forfeit the moral authority necessary to effectively criticize the opposition.
Republicans should imagine trying to criticize Democratic congressional candidate Lois Frankel over all her alleged secret deals while she was mayor of West Palm Beach, when she can hurl back at Adam Hasner and the party that Republicans hold secret meetings as if they’re hiding something. I’m sure Democrats can think of a few scenarios of their own where a loss of moral authority would effectively neuter their public voice.
The party that bans any media from what should be open public meetings would give up moral authority and gain a new purpose, one I’m not sure they would appreciate as much.
Thankfully, cooler, more competent heads are sure to prevail. At the last Republican Executive Committee meeting, local GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein defended press access to such gatherings, and on this issue, he’s 100 percent correct.
Video: Dinerstein defends press access. The off-camera voice in the video, the one opining that the deliberations of elected party representatives should be private, is that of Boca Raton Republican Committeewoman Roslyn Goldstein.
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