13 Feb 1998 “What Does the AFL-CIO Have to Hide?” Asks Journalist Thrown Out of Union Press Conference
In a move chilling to freedom of the press, operatives for the AFL-CIO forced Political Money Monitor Editor David W. Almasi to return documents orginially given to him during a press briefing at the labor union’s national headquarters.
“I find it very odd that an organization that just spent more than an hour lecturing journalists on a perceived threat to its First Amendment freedom would restrict my ability as a journalist to report on what they told us,” said Mr. Almasi. “It makes me wonder what they are trying to hide?”
Political Money Monitor is a biweekly newsletter focusing on campaign finance issues. Mr. Almasi was attending the labor union’s press briefing at its national headquarters on federal and state legislation and ballot initiatives to prohibit labor unions and employers from using money taken from employee paychecks to pay for political activity – a contentious campaign finance reform proposal.
As Mr. Almasi tried to leave the union’s briefing, two AFL-CIO staffers told him he would have to return the briefing materials given to him if he could not produce press credentials. Refusing to accept his business card, the staffers called AFL-CIO security personnel. Mr. Almasi chose to surrender the materials.
“During the briefing, union officials said that ‘payroll protection’ measures on the ballot in California and in many statehouses were a direct threat to their freedom to communicate with their membership. Then they tell me, under threat of force, that I cannot communicate their message to my readership,” said Mr. Almasi. “I find this behavior very disturbing.”