Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Abercrombie's strange vote against a federal shield law for journalists

by Larry Geller

Rep. Neil Abercrombie became the only Democrat to side with the Bush administration in opposing a federal shield law when he voted against it. The bill was unusual in garnering bipartisan support. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The House overwhelmingly approved a media shield bill Tuesday that would protect reporters from having to reveal their confidential sources in federal courts, despite warnings from the White House that it could lead to more leaks of classified information.

The measure passed by a lopsided vote, 398-21, as lawmakers complained that journalists are under siege from federal prosecutors and civil litigants seeking to unmask their sources. In the end, 176 Republicans joined virtually all Democrats to support the bill.

In an unusual alliance, even top Republican leaders like House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, broke with the Bush administration to join the majority to pass a bill that supporters said would bolster the freedom of the press.


Only 20 Republicans and one Democrat - Hawaii Rep. Neil Abercrombie - opposed the bill. Those lawmakers said they agree with the administration's view that the bill would tie the hands of federal prosecutors and lead to more leaks that could help America's enemies.

The Advertiser ran the AP story which contained a different excuse:

Abercrombie spokesman Dave Helfert said the lawmaker opposed the bill because it would violate the First Amendment.

"He believes, and he states, that the Constitution says that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of the press," Helfert said. "Therefore, Congress has no regulatory authority of any kind over freedom of the press, either to give it — to give protection — or take away."

KPUA (Hilo) carried another paragraph from the AP story omitted by the Advertiser with a third reason:

Helfert says Abercrombie changed his mind after talking with reporters who opposed the idea on constitutional grounds and wound up voting against his own bill.

So we have three different possible motivations for Abercrombie's strange vote, none very good. Considering the overwhelming number of press groups that have supported the House version of this bill, the Congressman would have to have consorted with the most right-leaning reporters to get much sympathy for a "no" vote.



You might want to see what this person says about the shield law:

I was researching this and foudn that post interesting.

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