The conservative R Block Party had a party last night. I attended in response to an email invitation that the R Block sent to its list of followers. Then I learned that the organizers didn't want me to cover the political event. This probably is because they didn't want me to report on their campaigns to take over the Arapahoe County and Colorado Republican parties.
Indeed, while they didn't kick me out of the meeting, I left before it started because I knew I was unwelcome at their event for conservatives and Republicans. They had a right to ask me to leave, and I have a right and obligation to report on their hostility to a free press.
What this tells me is that while the R Block leaders purport to teach Tea Party sympathizers how to get involved in politics, they don't understand the role of the media or bloggers in the political process. They object to the secretive, back-room dealings in Washington, yet they're more secretive than the politicians they distrust.
I also think that the meeting planners are trying to create a movement to take over the Arapahoe County Republican Party and even the Colorado Republican Party in elections scheduled for early next year.
Here's what happened last night:
I and many others received an email invitation to last night's R Block meeting at the Bemis Library in Littleton. The topic, the email (see below) said, was, "Learn how to become a part of your county structure and how it impacts the state party elections."
To me, this looked like an opportunity to film their presentation, make a movie and publish it here on my blog. My goal, as always, was to give my readers information that would help them get involved in the political process and to make better decisions. R Block's mission, as I understand it, is to educate people about politics and help them get involved. I wanted to help. On Wednesday, I tried to help boost their attendance by announcing their meeting to the Arapahoe County Republican Men's (and women's) Club breakfast.
I walked into the R Block meeting room with my camcorder in my pocket and with a tripod in my hand.
After a few minutes, Lori Horn, one of the organizers who is rumored to be interested in running for the chairwoman's job in the Arapahoe Republican Party, asked if she could read anything I might write about the event. She wanted to approve anything I wrote. I'm a professional, and nobody I cover reads anything I write before it is published. If people don't like what I write, they are invited to post any corrections or objections in the comment section of this blog. If I agree with the corrections or revisions, I'll edit my post. Dan Maes posted comments on my stories on this blog a few times during the gubernatorial campaign.
Horn explained that she has been to meetings I've covered and that she disagreed with what I wrote and how I interpreted what was said and what happened at those meetings. Fine. We all see and hear things differently. That's why there are nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Everyone receives and interprets what they hear and read from their personal points of view. There's as much or more bias in the eyes of a content consumer as in the mind of a content creator. I've accepted that reality over more than 45 years in journalism and publishing.
After thinking about it over night, it occurred to me that what Horn was really saying is that she didn't want me to write about her meeting because she didn't want me to write about how the R Block Party and its affiliated 9.12 and Tea Party organizations are mounting a drive to take over county parties and state parties. It would have been better if she had just said that she was holding a private meeting and didn't want me there. Instead, she and her colleagues attacked my integrity and professionalism. They let me know what they think of me. I laughed at that, but we sure got off on the wrong foot.
At the beginning of my conversation with Horn, an extremely hostile guy I don't know said he was very uncomfortable that I was there. He wouldn't tell me who he is. Horn said he has attended a lot of her meetings. He must be a Dan Maes supporter or object to my views on some issues. That's OK. I am opinionated and lots of people don't like my opinions or how I express them. But, again, he apparently didn't want me to reveal the extent of the Tea Party activists' drive to take over the GOP in Colorado.
I told Horn that if she didn't want me there or kicked me out, that was a story and I'd publish it. Horn, the educator about political process, took that as a threat. It wasn't. It was not meant as a threat at all. It was a statement of fact. If she took the exchange as a threat, I apologize.
This is that story. I just wanted Lori Horn to know that when you throw the media and bloggers out of political events or make it clear that they are unwelcome as she and her friends did, reporters and bloggers often write a story about the incident. Secrecy is a big story. Everyone loves conspiracy theories.
Although I explained to Lori Horn and her colleagues that I wanted to help R Block spread its message about how county party leaders are elected, they made it clear to me that they not only didn't trust me to write about their event, they also didn't want me to film and publish a movie about their presentation.
So I left before the meeting began. I didn't want to hear what I couldn't report. No professional reporter does.
Indeed, I left with what I think is a big story. It's pretty easy to connect the dots.
There is speculation that Horn wants to become chair of the Arapahoe Republican Party. I've emailed to Horn a request for a confirmation or denial. And I left a message on her home phone asking her to check her email. I also called the cell phone number that her daughter gave me and that is on her message machine. When I called the cell phone number, I got a message both last night and this morning that the cell phone has been disconnected. Horn needs to update her voice mail message. She has not replied to my email nor my phone calls.
The questions that this encounter with the R Block Party raise in my mind are:
Is it possible that Horn was planning to use the R Block event last night to build support for her planned or tentatively-planned run for chair of the Arapahoe Republican Party?
Can someone who distrusts the press and bloggers the way she obviously does function effectively as chairman of a county or state party? She and her friends were more distrusting of me and hostile than any politician I've covered in the last 13 months. That is saying a lot. It was amazing.
Can someone who wants such tight control over what happens at public political events survive in the tumultuous world of Republican politics?
A Denver-based reporter for a prominent online news organization was on the way into the meeting when I was leaving. He didn't have his camcorder with him as he often does. One of the organizers said "We have a special relationship with [the online news service that the reporter used to work for]." It will be interesting to see whether the professional political reporter attended the meeting as a reporter or as a participant. Will he do a story about the event? Will he let Horn read his copy and comment on it or edit it before he publishes it?
I should point out that Lori Horn has witnesses to our discussion, and I don't. I'm sure that if they wrote a report on our conversation, their report would not be the same as this one. That's OK.
Horn and friends are invited to post their version of our encounter in the comments section of this blog, on Facebook or anywhere else. I can't wait to see what they have to say for themselves. I hope that they tell us what they talked about at the meeting.
I can only ask:
How can Horn and her friends defend their secrecy and their distrust of the media?
How can they pretend to teach politics and process when they don't seem to understand the role of bloggers and the media in politics?
Do they believe in the First Amendment to the Constitution?
Do they believe in political transparency?
One thing I'm sure of: Lori Horn is not ready to run for anything in politics. She has a lot of friends, I know, but she doesn't know how to build confidence in her political skills or how to deal with the media. She would drive away a lot of volunteers and contributors. And she would make it easy for her critics to attack her and her party.
I don't care who is elected chair of any county parties or the state party, but I reserve the right to express my opinions about candidates for those jobs as the candidates go public or as their names surface as Horn's has.
This was the agenda in the invitation I received via an email:
It's November 3rd .
The 2010 Elections are done.
But we're not...J
(You didn't think we were done, did you?)
Join us for our next meeting...
Party elections are coming.
Learn how to become a part of your county structure
and how it impacts the state party elections.
Yes, our Chairman and Vice Chairman are elected. Find out how.
We welcome back CHUCK POPLSTEIN.
Chuck will fill us in on all the statistical details as we quarterback
the election results and lay out the path going forward.
Finally, we invite candidates and newly elected officials.
Come and celebrate your campaigns and wins.
We want to thank you for all of your hard work.