Yesterday, at a conference in New Orleans, two ThinkProgress reporters were attacked by security guards for no apparent reason. Reporters Scott Keyes and Lee Fang were at the Marriott Hotel for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) annual meeting, an event that brings together state lawmakers with corporate lobbyists to draft “model” legislation.
While we stood by the second floor lobby of the conference hotel, security guards surrounded us, demanding that we leave. As we were leaving, they approached us, violently pushed us and twisted our arms. A guard approached Fang from behind, tackling him and later bending his arm to take his camera. Keyes, faced similar treatment: two security guards roughed him up on the escalator, taking his video camera, and cutting Keyes’ hand as he attempted to leave the premises. As Keyes asked why he was being forced to leave, he was shoved from the back.
Asked why they were being so belligerent, the security guards said they were acting on instructions from ALEC. At certain points during the incident, they were able to turn on their video cameras and record it:
Although ThinkProgress has attended ALEC conferences in the past as credentialed media (we broke the story about BlueCross BlueShield lobbyists writing ALEC’s anti-health reform legislation in 2009), we were denied credentials this time.
ALEC calls itself an open organization that exists simply to advance “principles of Jeffersonian democracy.” Facing recent scrutiny by the media, one prominent ALEC member told the Daily Iowan that there’s “nothing sinister, there’s nothing secretive about [ALEC].” However, the incident yesterday underscores the suspicion that the organization is a secret conduit for corporate lobbyists to literally write legislation for state lawmakers without having their fingerprints on the bill. To maintain this secrecy, ALEC appears more than willing to kick out media and close their doors to the public.
Earlier in the day, when Fang and Keyes were sitting in the first floor lobby, they witnessed ALEC public affairs official Raegan Weber point to them while speaking to the hotel security. However, contacted by ThinkProgress over phone after the incident yesterday, Weber denied telling the security to go after us, and said she would get back to us with a statement concerning what happened. Nearly a day later, we have not heard back from her.