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Pence urges Congress to shield news media

Gov. Mike Pence spent a dozen years in Congress before leaving last year after winning election to his new post. But he apparently has some unfinished business on Capitol Hill.

Pence’s office said Thursday that he has sent a letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate and House urging them to vote on the Free Flow of Information Act that he and then-Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., authored in 2006.

The legislation, known as a media shield bill, would protect journalists from having to reveal their confidential sources in federal court cases, except under certain circumstances involving national security and terrorism. Pence notes in his letter that the bill, approved by the House in 2007 and 2009 but not by the Senate, has been reintroduced this year in both houses of Congress.

“As a conservative who believes in limited government, I know the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press,” wrote Pence, a Republican.

He said the Free Flow of Information Act would “ensure that confidential sources remain willing to share information vital to the public interest.”

Pence’s letter comes after President Obama’s administration acknowledged seizing telephone records from The Associated Press and reading the emails of a Fox News reporter. In each case, the Justice Department said it was investigating government leaks of national security information.

The same day Pence made his letter public, Obama said in a speech that Attorney General Eric Holder will review the Justice Department’s policy regarding the investigation of leaks to news reporters. Later Thursday, Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, announced that he has co-sponsored the Free Flow of Information Act, and he made a reference to the Justice Department investigations of AP and Fox News.

“Our great experiment in self-government hinges on freedom of speech and a free and independent press,” Stutzman said in a statement. “This administration’s recent actions have reminded Americans of our ceaseless duty to safeguard this precious liberty. …”

Conservatives meet

The American Conservative Union has invited Pence to speak at its regional Conservative Political Action Conference in St. Louis on Sept. 28.

He is among invited speakers that the ACU described in a news release as “powerhouse leaders in the region who have upheld conservative principles in their respective states.”

Other invited speakers include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, last year’s Republican vice presidential candidate.

Lights out

Tuesday’s Fort Wayne City Council meeting started with a problem: Just as the proceedings were about to begin, the packed council chambers went dark except for the emergency lighting. The building had power; only the council chambers had gone dark.

After a few minutes, officials simply moved the meeting from the committee room to the larger, more formal council chambers next door, and things got under way.

The cause of the outage was never announced, but Tim McCauley took the blame.

McCauley was there representing the Fort Wayne firefighters union as the council debated a host of changes to employee benefits. But years ago, McCauley was on the other side of things – he was the city’s attorney and represented management when the city negotiated with its unions.

“Though lightning hasn’t struck, maybe that’s why the lights went out,” McCauley joked.

Bureaucratic badge

Tuesday’s City Council meeting – as they often are – was host to a Boy Scout troop that was there to watch local government in action. But this troop got more than it bargained for: The meeting ran 2 1/2 hours and ended indecisively.

The council president usually recognizes the Scouts and thanks them for being there, but Tom Didier, R-3rd, went further, asking for a round of applause for their perseverance.

“I don’t know if you get a badge for this,” Didier deadpanned, “but you oughta.”

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.

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