A handful of organizations that keep close tabs on the federal government and campaigns was denied access to the Republican National Convention this week.
The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics and has attended every convention since at least 1996, and the Project on Government Oversight, which investigates corruption, misconduct and conflicts of interest were not granted credentials. Factcheck.org, which monitors the factual accuracy of politicians, was initially denied a credential, but received one on appeal.
All three organizations, which have watched after politicians in the nation’s capital for decades, received credentials to attend the Democratic National Convention next week in Philadelphia.
“It is stunning that widely respected, nonpartisan organizations that provide media, voters and public sector professionals more objective information about our democracy are being denied credentials at the GOP National Convention,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, a watchdog group that did not plan to attend the convention.
“If nonpartisan, nonprofit, good government watchdog groups are being shut out of the convention, it begs the question, what is the GOP afraid they might find?”
Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Convention, initially referred questions to the congressional press galleries, which are in charge of credentialing accredited media organizations for both the events. Later, after she was told that the organizations are not considered media, she said “We get as many non-media in as we can.”
The convention is taking place at the 20,000-seat Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. With many Republicans skipping the event because of a lack of enthusiasm for nominee Donald Trump, hundreds of seats have been empty each night.
Robert Zatkowski, director of the House Periodical Press Gallery, said the organizations had initially applied for credentials, but were turned down because they did not meet the definition of journalists because of their funding, ownership or subscription. The groups were referred to the Republican National Convention organizers, which can grant credentials to the so-called special media, which includes nonprofits and student newspapers.
Viveca Novak, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsive Politics, also called OpenSecrets.org, said her organization planned to send two people to Cleveland but were told “they couldn't accommodate us ‘due to capacity/space constraints.’ ”
Just before the convention began, Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, used the Republican convention in a fundraising email, titled “Denied convention press credentials, we won't be silent.”
“We’ve overcome roadblocks to our work before,” Krumholz said. “We'll keep reporting – on the intersection between moneyed interests and politicians, and on the matchups with convention spending and special-interest wish lists.”
Novak said the group was unable to find anyone to use the house it had rented so it decided to send employees to try to attend events off site. They have continued to try to receive credentials each day through the galleries, but have been turned down each time. Two people will travel to Philadelphia.
Ari Goldberg, a spokesman for the Project on Government Oversight, said the group applied for three credentials for the first time, but was told “that demand was too high and space too limited.” It applied for three credentials to the Democratic convention and received two.
“It's unfortunate because POGO works hard to maintain its stellar reputation as a nonpartisan organization that goes after corruption, waste, conflicts of interests, and abuse of the public trust in an equal opportunity way,” Goldberg said. “We have champions on both sides of the aisle and our donors and supporters come from left, right, and center.”
FactCheck.org, which was to share housing with the members of the Center for Responsive Politics, was initially denied one credential. The group, which partners with the media organizations, could have obtained credentials through their partnership with USAToday.
But Eugene Kiely, director of FactCheck.org, said he wanted to received access on its own and appealed the denial. He was successful, but was never told what had changed.