There's been a lot of comment on the Internet about the Redding Tea Party's decision Monday night to close certain portions of its meeting with Rep. Doug LaMalfa to the press. For the record, I didn't attend the meeting and didn't try to speak to LaMalfa on Monday, although he has recently accommodated us for stories here, here and here.
I suppose the right thing for LaMalfa to do would have been to hold a series of town halls at open venues such as Redding's City Hall, as Rep. Wally Herger did during his tenure. Or, barring that, perhaps he could have accommodated the local media by stopping by their offices during the day or at least holding a brief presser before the tea-party event. Certainly he could have persuaded his friends at the tea party to make a room available.
All of that said, the idea of an elected official holding private meetings with supporters is not new. I can remember several times that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Redding fundraisers (or sent his then-wife, Maria Shriver) and we reporters weren't allowed in. I remember one occasion standing outside the Holiday Inn trying to catch luncheon attendees on their way out and asking them what went on inside.
As others have pointed out, the Redding Tea Party is a private organization that was meeting at a private place, and they're fully within their rights to let the media in or not let them in. These people tend to be very wary of the news media at all levels, and not without good reason. In general, the MSM's coverage of the tea party across the country has not been good, nor has it been fair. And if LaMalfa made the same complaint about some of his own coverage over the last few months, it would not be entirely without merit.
What'll be interesting to see is if LaMalfa pays any kind of a price in terms of public opinion for "shutting the media out." My hunch is he won't. That should bother our local news organizations even more than getting shut out of a meeting.
UPDATE: LaMalfa apparently did stop by the KRCR studios on Tuesday. Their very informative report on his DHS inquiry is here.