When reporting my story for today about whether Reps. Stace Nelson and Lance Russell would be allowed back into the Republican caucus this year, I ran into a roadblock: no one wanted to talk about it.
More accurately, some people didn’t want to talk about it, the rest said they couldn’t talk about it.
“That’s an internal caucus issue,” said Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City and the House majority leader, when I first asked him about whether Nelson and Russell would be invited back. “That’s not for public consumption.”
He later relented and told me the two had been invited back. But in my calls around to various Republicans (not just Stace and Lance), I was told — rarely on the record — that there had been a big emphasis from leadership about keeping “internal caucus issues” secret.
“I’m not going to discuss his letter. He requested confidentiality,” Nelson said of Lust.
This isn’t new, though I can’t say for sure how the degree of the focus on secrecy compares to the past. Republican caucus meetings have never, to me knowledge, been open to the public. And while Democrats are better, their “open” caucus meetings are actually “open but off-the-record”, meaning I am free to sit in on them but can’t write about anything I see or hear. (Plus, since they have less than one-third of the seats in both houses, not much of consequence gets decided there, anyway.)
All reporters share one open and proud bias: in favor of openness and transparency. So that’s where I’m coming from on this — I firmly believe a more open political process would not only make my job easier and be better for the people, but also better in the long run for the lawmakers themselves.
Part of the problem with secrecy is it leaves people open to assume the worst about what goes on when they can’t see. So good luck with the rumors, guys. You could quash them, but that would require you to discuss internal caucus issues.