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Urge Senators to keep proceedings in the sunshine

FOI Alert Volume 4 Issue 2 (1998-99)

It appears the Senate will begin impeachment trial proceedings on Thursday, Jan. 7, with Senate leaders releasing few details about how President Clinton's trial will be conducted.

SPJ members, particularly state sunshine chairs, need to remind Senate leadership and Senators from their states to keep the proceedings open to the public.

The concern about a closed trial comes as a result of comments by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made earlier in December about the possibility of conducting parts of the trial in secret including "jury-like" proceedings. McConnell said he did not want a spectacle that would demean the Senate.

Other senators said they didn't want a secret "star chamber" proceeding for the president. Some senators, including Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, have said they would oppose closure.

The public has a right to know what is the basis and what are the facts behind whatever action is taken against the president. At this point it appears the Senate has left the form of the trial up in the air. At the very least, Senators should be reminded these proceedings ought to be open.

SPJ Chapter members, Project Sunshine Chairs and others are urged to contact senators from their states with letters or emails urging open and public proceedings.

Photographers associations are also concerned about restrictions on still cameras in Senate proceedings. Although the rules are not expected to change, SPJ should be on record favoring access for still photographers, particularly during the trial. As the rules now stand the only photos likely from the trial will be freeze frames of the television feed that is shown on C-SPAN.

Here is information on Senate leaders and Sergeant-at-Arms (who will control access for photographers).

Sen. Trent Lott
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-6253
fax (202) 224-2262
email: senatorlott@lott.senate.gov

Sen. Thomas A. Daschle
Minority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
phone: (202) 224-2321
email: tom_daschle@daschle.senate.gov

James Ziglar
Sergeant in Arms
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Joel Campbell is the associate business editor at the (Salt Lake City) Deseret News.

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