Eleanor Holmes Norton Presses for Expanded Commercial Filming, Photography Near Capitol

Posted April 3, 2012 at 2:31pm

The time is right to expand commercial filming and photography regulations around Capitol Hill, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) says. She hopes House and Senate leadership agree.

On Monday, Norton sent a letter to the leaders of the House Administration and Senate Rules and Administration committees, which oversee Capitol grounds and security, to request that they explore whether more parts of the Capitol complex can be opened up to commercial filmmakers and photographers.

Currently, Union Square, an 11-acre swath of land that lies at the base of the Capitol’s West Front, is the only spot from which commercial cameras can shoot the Capitol.

This policy, however, has been grandfathered in from the days when Union Square was the property of the National Park Service. Citing security reasons, Congress transferred the area to legislative branch control last year. Commercial filming and photography is prohibited throughout the rest of the campus.

“We are very pleased with the Capitol Police Board’s … ongoing work ‘toward making the [current] practices permanent under the new jurisdictional arrangement,’” Norton wrote. “However, we also believe that the transfer jurisdiction provides, for the first time in decades, an opportunity to engage in a broader review of whether to allow permits for commercial photography and filming at a few additional areas outside of the Capitol and Congressional office buildings.”

Adding that “there is no policy or security reason why commercial photography of the Capitol Complex should be allowed at only one location,” Norton suggested that Independence Avenue on the House side and Constitution Avenue on the Senate side should be among the sites to consider.

Expanding such parameters would, among other things, be beneficial to children on class trips who want to pose for commercial photographers in front of the historic landscape, Norton said.

In the past, she has also pointed out that filming at the Capitol is good for the District: Outside film and photo crews inevitably bring money into the city. Filmmakers who set stories in the Capitol invariably move production to a nearby statehouse or other government building to stand in for the Capitol.

House Administration Committee spokeswoman Salley Wood told Roll Call that Republicans and Democrats on the panel “will take it under consideration in consultation with [Capitol Police].”