Journalists should call out Coffman’s ban on using recording devices in his district office

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

It’s hard to miss this warning sign posted by the door as you enter the district office of Rep. Mike Coffman on South Parker Road.

“The use of video recording devices, still cameras or digital recorders are NOT permitted inside the office.”

You’d think this sign would insult reporters who stand for free, open, and on-the-record communications between peasants and their elected representatives. Not only that, if you take the sign seriously, even reporters visiting Coffman’s office could record neither peep nor pushup from Coffman.

I asked Tom Kelley, longtime Denver media attorney and partner at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schultz, about the sign:

“Assuming he welcomes journalists in the office to meet with the Congressman, why is he barring them from showing the public in real time what actually is going on there?” asked Kelley. “I think it’s bad policy. It suggests that there’s something to hide inside that office. If he would bar disruptive behavior or something like that, it would be different. But clearly his intent is to prevent being embarrassed, which he’s had some experience with recently over the gaffe on the President’s citizenship. It’s hard not to wonder if this isn’t in response to that. All of which doesn’t speak well of the Congressman’s willingness to be transparent and accountable.

“I would hope that he or any Congressman on either side of the aisle would reconsider,” said Kelley, adding that if someone were to take Coffman to court to force him to allow recording devices in the office, he or she would likely lose.

Journalists aside, you wonder what Coffman would say to the Aurora elementary school kids who might stop in for a visit and want a photo with their Congressman?

Drew Kerin, a staffer at Coffman’s Aurora office, told me that the policy of banning recording devices came at the “strong recommendation” of the U.S. Capitol Police. Kerin added that he personally spoke to the U.S. Capitol Police about the matter.

After speaking with Kerin, I requested information on the U.S. Capitol Police’s recommendations on recording devices. I’ll update this blog when I hear back.

To be fair, other congressional offices may sometimes ask visitors to restrict the use of recording devices, depending on the circumstances. But in a limited survey, I couldn’t find any that totally bans them, like Coffman does.

The photo immediately below was taken this month at Coffman’s office. The other one was shot in December.

8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DavieDavie says:

    I hope Mike Coffman will find great relief in November from cronic Foot-In-Mouth disease.  At least, no one will care what he says anymore if he is retired from public service ;-)

  2. Robb says:

    My understanding of Colorado's laws on the matter is such a sign is legally worthless. IIRC we're one of the states where the rule is a minimum of 50% of people being taped in a recording are required to know they are being recorded. Put another way, 50% not knowing about it is OK. Put a third way: a reporter with a tape recorder having a one-on-one conversation with anyone is under no legal obligation to inform them they are being recorded.

    IANAL, but that's what I recall. 

  3. gertie97 says:

    At least somebody might see someone IN Coffman's office. In Grand Junction, Udall's office is in the Aspinall federal building, where the security guards must be TSA wanna-bes and do everything short of strip-search you. Tipton and Bennet's offices are elsewhere downtown, but both are locked and have a speakerphone. Usually they don't bother to answer, even if somebody is there. I realize that their areas on the Western Slope are vast and that they travel a lot, but in that case there should be some sort of note on the door.

     

  4. doremi says:

    Besides…the sign is grammatically incorrect.

    The use of….. IS  (not are).

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