Media Shield Authors Gather a ‘Gang’

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted July 17, 2013 at 12:33pm

Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Lindsey Graham have yet another “gang.”

This time the New York Democrat and South Carolina Republican are leading a bipartisan mix of senators in a revival of the push for media shield legislation, with the plan to get the bill out of the Judiciary Committee before the August recess.

“Sen. Schumer seldom has a good idea, but when he does, I jump on it,” said Graham, who has also worked with Schumer as part of the immigration “gang of eight” and on the effort to avert changing Senate filibuster rules on executive branch nominees.

“I’m proud to work with this great group. As a prosecutor, I don’t always like to use the word gang, but it’s  another good gang that we’ve come up with,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

“When you cover political people, it’s okay if we get upset, but it’s not okay if we use the power of the government unfairly against those who cover us,” Graham said. He was one of several speakers calling for stronger delineation between government leakers and the reporters who receive such leaks at a Wednesday afternoon rollout of the media shield measure.

Schumer and Graham have floated similar measures in years past. Schumer praised new guidance from the Justice Department on handling leak cases involving members of the media, but he said changes must be codified in law.

“We are going to add new provisions to ensure that the proposals DOJ has issued aren’t simply suggestions that are followed at the whim of an attorney general, but the law of the land. First, we’re going to make sure that the Justice Department can’t delay notifying a reporter or news agency when their records are being sought for more than 90 days. The DOJ guidelines would make this the norm in records cases, but the next attorney general or next president could always change their mind,” Schumer said. “Our bill won’t let that happen.”

Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal, like Klobuchar a former prosecutor, cited his own work on a leak investigation related to an organized crime case as part of his rationale for backing the bill.

“I conducted a major investigation of improper disclosures while I was United States attorney. I did so at the request of the attorney general, and we had one rule, which was: no approaches, no subpoenas, no requests to the press,” Blumenthal said. “We regarded this improper disclosure with the severity that was merited.”

Nonetheless, he said, “the burden is on the government to investigate and punish improper disclosure on the part of government officials that have been entrusted with the most solemn and serious of responsibilities.”

Other members of the group include Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.