Mass. convention delegation largely sealed off from state media due to hotel policy

Florida National Guard members stood point Saturday as part of the security contingent for the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Florida National Guard members stood point Saturday as part of the security contingent for the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

TAMPA—The Massachusetts delegation to the Republican National Convention is largely sealed off from a state media contingent that traveled south to cover it because it is being housed in the same hotel as the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, former Governor Mitt Romney.

Law enforcement officials planned tonight to begin refusing admittance to the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina to anyone who is not a guest in an effort to maintain building security, an official with the Massachusetts GOP said today.

Reporters were blocked from staying with the delegation when Romney secured the nomination in April and, with it, assumed prime hotel space for this week’s convention.

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Now, refusing any admittance for TV, radio, and print reporters from Massachusetts will inhibit conversations with the 79-member delegation outside the convention hall itself. It will also block coverage of two morning breakfasts where reporters can typically listen as the delegates are addressed by newsmakers.

On Monday, they are scheduled to hear from Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Robert Maginn, state committeman and senior Romney adviser Ron Kaufman, and former lieutenant governor and current senior campaign adviser Kerry Healey.

On Tuesday, they are slated to be addressed by other senior Romney campaign staff. There has also been talk of the group hearing from Senator Scott Brown, who is scheduled to attend Thursday’s convention session.

And it may mean that only a small pool of traveling campaign reporters get to hear from Romney if, as expected, he meets with his homestate delegation sometime before formally accepting the nomination on Thursday night.

The control on hotel access will have a secondary effect, too: shielding the Romney family, the Romney campaign staff, and some of the campaign’s top supporters of any media scrutiny or interaction while they are in their convention housing.

Romney himself favored tight security when he was governor from 2003 to 2007. He entered and exited his State House office behind velvet ropes that led to an elevator locked down for his exclusive use. He also employed aides who wore Secret Service-style ear pieces to plot his movements and shielded him from reporters.

Representatives of the Romney campaign did not immediately return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.

Tim Buckley, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Republican Party, said in a statement: “Access to some of the delegation’s events may be restricted due to the Secret Service’s security perimeter.”

A Secret Service spokesman said admission policies for buildings within the security perimeter are set by the Republican National Committee, now under the control of the Romney campaign.

The hotel, as well as an Embassy Suites Hotel across the street, is within a walled buffer that stretches several blocks east from the Tampa Convention Center—where the media will work—to the Tampa Bay Times Forum—where the convention itself will be held.

Anyone entering that buffer will need an official credential and be screened at various points for weapons, lessening the security risk for the people—and buildings—within the perimeter.

Typically the delegates have a morning breakfast to hear from speakers, discuss their activities the night before, and then plot their plan for the day ahead. Convention events typically do not start until 7 p.m., with the major speeches occurring from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Delegates then typically return to their hotel to socialize.

That leaves afternoons free to relaxation or tourism. Members of the Pennsylvania delegation, staying in the same Tampa hotel as staff members of The Boston Globe, were headed today to the beach.

They made a point of telling some of the local reporters housed with them in their hotel, which include representatives of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.