A unique approach to government ‘transparency’

We talked yesterday about Rep. Steve Chabot’s confusion about tax policy. What I didn’t realize is that we were lucky to hear the Ohio Republican’s comments at all — Chabot is also banning and confiscating cameras at his town-hall events.

At a town hall meeting on Monday, a Chabot staffer directed a Cincinnati police officer to seize video cameras and cell phones from two Democratic activists who were attending the event.

This is the first report of cameras being confiscated at Chabot’s town halls, although he has been banning them since at least June.

Chabot’s office said the confiscations were intended to protect the privacy of constituents, but that’s not much of an excuse given that local media outlets were filming the same event, and their cameras were not touched.

The whole thing just strikes me as bizarre. Here we have a public official, whose salary is paid by public funds, holding a public event on public property. If a private citizen brings a camera to this event, a congressman can direct law enforcement to simply seize that camera? What?

I’m not a lawyer, but how is that even legal? Even if we assume the police return the cameras to their rightful owners after the event, on what grounds can a member of Congress tell a police officer to temporarily seize private property from a law-abiding citizen without due process or a threat to public safety?

It also raises questions about what, exactly, the Ohio Republican is afraid people will see.

Just for added fun, let’s also note that Chabot, as recently as 2009, said the lack of “openness and transparency” at Obama administration events was an “outrage.”