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VOL. 123 | NO. 145 | Friday, July 25, 2008

GOP Excludes Reporters From Annual Fundraiser

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE (AP) – The state’s Republican Party spokesman said this year’s annual fundraiser will be closed to the news media even though reporters have been welcomed at previous dinners.

Communications Director Bill Hobbs told The Associated Press that the “Statesmen’s Dinner” scheduled for Saturday will be a “closed ticketed event and historically has not been open to the media.”

However, the AP and reporters for other news organizations have attended the event for years, including the last two featuring former Republican presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2007 and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in 2006.

Former top White House adviser Karl Rove is supposed to give the keynote address at this year’s dinner.

When told of the media’s attendance at the past two Republican Party fundraisers, Hobbs said Wednesday, “We just chose to do it that way” this time.

“Political fundraisers are typically not open to the public,” he added.

But state Democratic Party spokesman Wade Munday said he doesn’t believe that to be the case.

“The Tennessee Democratic Party has always held a tradition that our annual Jackson Day fundraiser will be open to the press,” he said.

Hobbs dismissed that, saying “Democrats do a lot of things that Republicans don’t do.”

Hobbs has sometimes praised and sometimes criticized transparency.

When state House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a Democrat, and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, a Republican, announced last year that they planned to provide easier public access to voting records on the General Assembly’s Web site, Hobbs said the change marked progress toward more open government.

“More openness is good and that message is starting to sink in,” he said.

Hobbs more recently has used the state open government laws to obtain a database of gun permit holders in Tennessee.

The same day he filed the records request in April, Hobbs publicly scolded Democrats in the Legislature for blocking a bill that would have closed the information to the public. A state party news release this month used information from the state records to question Naifeh’s account of obtaining his gun permit.

Both times Hobbs said the party would have preferred not to have been able to get the gun records.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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