GOP Rep. Chabot criticized for camera seizures

DAN SEWELL - Associated Press
August 25, 2011

CINCINNATI (AP) — The staff for a Republican congressman who was criticized after police seized two video cameras at a constituent meeting said Thursday that future gatherings will be open to recording.

A Cincinnati police officer confiscated cameras from two Democratic activists at a Monday evening town hall hosted by Rep. Steve Chabot.

Video of the encounter was posted on YouTube and spread quickly this week, with Democrats complaining of censorship of a public meeting in a public venue — a community recreation center. The video shows the officer politely but firmly demanding the cameras, which were returned after the meeting.

Chabot spokesman Jamie Schwartz said the cameras were taken to protect constituents' privacy. Media cameras were allowed to roll because, Schwartz said, staffers expected the news media to respect people's privacy.

In the future, cameras will be allowed, Schwartz said. Town halls will begin with an announcement that those who don't want to be filmed while asking questions can meet privately with Chabot afterward.

"He'll stay around as long as it takes," Schwartz said.

Some 100 people attended Monday's meeting, including some who are critical of Chabot on economic and health care issues.

David Little, one of the activists whose camera was seized, also criticized Chabot for answering only pre-submitted questions. Schwartz said participants in the next town hall, planned for next week, can question Chabot directly.

Chabot is in his eighth term. He served seven terms, lost the 2008 election and then ousted one-term Democrat Steve Driehaus last year.

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