HIT AND RUN: TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION ASSAULTS FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
Infowars.com | August 13, 2007
Reproduced below is the text of a certified letter this writer sent to Randall Dillard, the Media Relations Manager of the Government and Public Affairs Division of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
Robert L. Dacy
xxx xxxxxxxx xxx
July 26, 2007
Media Relations Manager
Government and Public Affairs Division
Texas Department of Transportation
125 East 11 th Street
Austin, Texas 78701
Sent via certified mail article number 7006 3450 0003 9625 5287
Dear Mr. Dillard,
I am writing this letter to you, sent certified return receipt requested, in order to give you the opportunity to respond to some very serious questions and concerns I have concerning the fact that you denied the TV news show I host credentials to cover the Texas Transportation Forum held last week at the Hilton here in Austin. You will recall that my producer, Kelly Taylor, requested credentials for our TV news/talk show, The Simple Truth. Chris Lippincott of TxDot informed us that we did not qualify because we work for free. I contend that you breached Federal and State law. Let me explain.
Article 1 of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom…of the press.” The 14 th Amendment of the Constitution states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges …of citizens of the United States.” The Texas Constitution, Article 1, BILL OF RIGHTS, Section 8 - Freedom of Speech and Press; libel, states “Every person shall be at liberty to speak, write or publish his opinions on any subject…and no law shall ever be passed curtailing the liberty of speech or of the press.”
State agencies are created by the state legislature and operate under state law. In your initial welcome to the media on your website set up for the Forum, you DEFINED the media, stating that in order to qualify for media credentials, one MUST be a full time salaried employee of a licensed TV or radio station or newspaper who receives no income from any other organization. That extremely restrictive, arbitrary definition of media excluded freelance journalists, as well as journalists representing magazines. Under your restrictions, a reporter from Time Magazine would not qualify.
The central point here, the sticking point, the broad Constitutional question here is this: Freedom of the press is essential to our very way of life. The founders of both our country and of our state recognized that a free press watchdogs the government, and is an additional safeguard against abuse of government power. This is civics 101. HOW CAN THE PRESS WATCHDOG THE GOVERNMENT IF THE GOVERNMENT DEFINES THE PRESS?
So, before I consider my options in this matter, such as contacting the ACLU, I am requesting from you a full explanation of your actions in this matter. My first question to you is…what legal ground do you perceive you are standing on? Please do not tell me that your decision to exclude us came out of some bureaucratic regulation. The supreme law of the United States and of the State of Texas trumps all regulations that fly in the face of the law.
When you rejected our request , we contacted a national news magazine that we occasionally write for, and you granted credentials for us as representatives of The New American magazine. Why did you do that? The New American did not meet your definition of media. We were not editorial staff, we were not full time salaried employees, and the magazine is not a newspaper, a TV station, or a radio station. Aside from my contention that you have no right to define media in the first place, why the double standard? Why did you ignore your own arbitrary restrictions for The New American, but not The Simple Truth? Did you believe you could exclude a small, local media outlet, but decide not to pick a fight with a national news magazine?
Next, working for free for The Simple Truth TV news/talk show that I host, on June 28 th I covered the Texas Transportation Commission meeting that determined if TxDot would favor Cintra over the NTTA on the Highway 121 toll project. I went in there as media, was briefly questioned when I sat in the section reserved for media and set up my camera to record the event. I told the gentleman I was there to cover the meeting for The Simple Truth TV news/talk show, and everything was just fine. Why the double standard? Why do you “allow” me to cover the TxDot meeting but not the TxDot Forum? I hope you will not reply that had you known I was at the meeting you would have denied me access there, too.
Also, your boss, Ric Williamson , stung by repeated accusations in the media that TxDot has engaged in disingenuous back room activity concerning these toll roads, has publicly stated that he wants full public disclosure of TxDot's activities in order to avoid further bad publicity. In addition, Mike Heiligenstein of the CTRMA has stated that lack of transparency in the past was a mistake. Thomas Jefferson wrote “..that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions”. Is it the case that Ric Williamson , while talking the talk of full disclosure and transparency, is in reality instructing his subordinates not to walk the walk?
Lastly, if you will google my name, either as “Bob Dacy” or as “Robert L. Dacy”, you will find that I have been covering the Trans-Texas Corridor and all of its larger implications in a major way for a long time. The same holds true for Kelly Taylor. Because of my TV show, I reach a local audience of a few thousand people. Because of my freelance work for The New American, I reach many more thousands. Because I write for Alex Jones news website Infowars.com , because I am a frequent guest on his nationally syndicated radio show, and because I occasionally host the entire show, I reach an audience of millions of people. Because I am a well established member of the press in this country, I have a giant electronic soapbox, and I love standing on it. I am standing up for the Constitutions of the United States and of Texas. I am standing up for the Bill of Rights. This is serious business, and, as you can probably tell, this is also shaping up to be a major story.
Please respond in detail to each of the questions I have posed in this letter. I attempted to contact both you and Mr. Lippincott all of last Monday afternoon in order to get your explanation of your actions in this matter before my TV show went live. I got promises that my phone calls would be returned, but they never were. Hence the necessity of this certified letter. Please do not ignore me this time.
Bob Dacy, Host
The Simple Truth TV news/talk show on Austin Time Warner Cable Access Television.
Mr. Dillard did not respond to the above letter, so I made another attempt to reach him by telephone. That attempt also failed, so I e-mailed him, requesting again that he respond to my letter. What I finally got back from Mr. Dillard was a dismissive, evasive non-response from the Director of Media Relations. (That title does not seem to fit someone who spends his time ducking questions from the media.) What follows is the text of the “reply” I received on August 6 th .
Thank you for the e-mail.
You were granted free admission to the Texas Transportation Forum. At no time were you ever told by TxDOT that you could not attend. Our goal in hosting the forum was to continue an important public dialogue on how to keep Texas moving.
Thank you for your interest in transportation.”
Mr. Dillard responded with five sentences, the 1 st and 5 th of which were fluff. While I acknowledge we were finally “granted free admission” to the forum, we were in fact denied press credentials to cover the event as local TV news representatives. The text of our rejection letter, sent to us by a Chris Lippincott on July 18 th , follows.
“Ms. Taylor and Mr. Dacy
You do not qualify for complimentary media credentials for the 2007 Texas Transportation Forum.
As explained in the application you received, complimentary registration is reserved for editorial staff. To qualify for press credentials, staff must:
* currently be employed by a media organization
*hold an editorial/writing title at that organization
Credentials are given on a policy that reflects the policy of the Texas Legislature to decline issuing credentials to anyone whose salary or compensation is paid by any person, firm, corporation or association except the media organizations which they represent.
Base(d) on my conversation with Ms. Taylor this morning, it is my understanding that the television show which you represent, “The Simple Truth,” is not the employer of either applicant.
Thank you for your interest in the 2007 Transportation Forum.
It is indisputable that Kelly Taylor and I were denied media credentials in our capacity as local TV news representatives. Had we not re-applied as freelancers for The New American magazine, we would not have been granted admission as press. In order to attend as persons interested in continuing “an important public dialogue,” we would have had to pay several hundred dollars to attend. How fortunate for the American people that TxDOT broke their own unconstitutional rules for The New American, for, as it turned out, no “qualified” media organization printed an in depth report on the forum.
TxDOT rented the hotel space with taxpayer money, so why would ANY taxpayer be denied free admission to the Forum? If TxDOT's goal was to “continue an important public dialogue,” then why were members of the public forced to shell out hundreds of dollars to attend?
As of this writing, Mr. Dillard has refused to respond to the core constitutional and legal questions I posed to him in the certified letter. I must, therefore, conclude that he has no defense for his actions. I must conclude that TxDOT, the state agency plotting to slap tolls on existing paid for interstate highway segments in Texas, is a rogue agency willfully and deliberately doing a “hit and run” on freedom of the press in order to keep the people of Texas (and the entire country) from finding out what is in store for their pocketbooks, or , perhaps TxDOT has been violating the 1 st Amendment to the US Constitution and Article 1, Section 8 of the Texas Constitution for so long they do not even see the conflict. In either case, TxDOT is operating outside of the law, and, because they have acted on their belief that they have the authority to restrict press access to their events by defining the press, their newfound “transparency” policy is a sham.
The people of Texas and of the United States of America are entitled to a media that watchdogs their government. That is why, in a free society, the government can never be allowed to define the media. If the TxDOT actions are derived from a policy of the Texas Legislature, then that policy is illegal and must be changed.
Hey, Mr. Dillard. Would you like to respond to my questions now? Do you still think “The Simple Truth” TV news/talk show does not qualify as media? Thanks to the power of the real media in this country, the alternative free press, the WORLD now knows the questions. How about some answers?
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