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The toughest ticket in Capitol: access to a Corbett press conference

What does a Gov. Corbett press conference have in common with the hottest New York nightclub? You’ve got the have the right cred to get in.

What does a Gov. Corbett press conference have in common with the hottest New York nightclub?

You've got to have the cred to get in.

In the case of a Corbett event, that means media credentials - or a powerful lawmaker by your side.

Reporters today were surprised to be greeted by two uniformed guards demanding press badges at Corbett's press conference on nuclear fallout from Japan's damaged reactors reaching Pennsylvania.

Last week Senate Democratic spokeswoman Lisa Scullin was barred at the door to a press conference on health care, but it just so happened she was traveling with Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.)

He intervened and she got in.

"It was like an exclusive club, but it's a public building," Scullin said. "I'm more offended as a taxypayer, than as a Senate staff member."

Three months into his administration, Corbett's few closed-door press conferences at the formal media center mark a sharp departure from predecessor Ed Rendell's near daily public exchanges in the more intimate reception room upstairs next to the governor's office.

"Nobody was ever turned away," said Rendell's former spokesman Chuck Ardo.

Longtime legislative aides say they recall press conferences open to the public during the Republican administrations of Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker.

Is Corbett's bar-the-door position part of a new trend among Republican governors?

Another newly-elected Republican governor, Florida's Rick Scott, is taking heat for running the Sunshine State like a "private corporation," blocking reporters' access to meetings and ignoring Sunshine Laws.

Government watchdog Eric Epstein, founder of the group Rock the Capital, said he found it ironic that Corbett, who ran on a reform platform, would limit public scrutiny and the public's access to him.

When asked what the official policy on press conference access is, spokesman Kevin Harley said Monday, without elaborating, "credentialed media only."

But what about members of the public? "They can watch it on TV," he said.

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