Wisconsin Republicans for many years have been less enthusiastic about open government, specifically the state’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws, than they should be.
Their first lesson should have been the Open Records Law requests that revealed which (allegedly nonpartisan) politicians, future candidates for office and members of the news media signed petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker in Recallarama 2011.
Those Democrats who (correctly) praise open government have an embarrassment in their own party, identified by M.D. Kittle:
Mainstream media outlets are learning what conservative news organizations have known for some time: The Evers Administration is brazenly breaking Wisconsin’s open record laws.
In a piece published Sunday, Fox6 in Milwaukee reported that Gov. Tony Evers denied its reporters’ requests for four weeks of emails to and from the governor and his chief of staff Maggie Gau. The request was denied by an administration lawyer, as was another refined request from Fox6.
“Finally, the Fox6 Investigators asked for Governor Evers’ emails from just one day. Denied,” the news outlet reported.
Open government experts said the administration’s legal interpretation violates the spirit, and perhaps the letter of, Wisconsin’s open records laws.
Join the club, folks.
Conservative news outlets have been fighting the transparency battle with Evers from the day he took the Oath of Office.
The administration has denied multiple open records requests from Empower Wisconsin.
In an an Aug. 29 letter, Evers’ Assistant Legal Council Erin Deeley denied Empower Wisconsin requests for all communications between Gau and staff members of Protect Democracy to investigate how involved this far left organization was in the executive branch. The requests timeframe was between Dec. 10 2018 through May 5, 2019. We also sought communications between Gau and the Public Service Commission chairwoman and her chief of staff following reports of improper practices.
Empower Wisconsin was denied because we did not identify a “subject matter,” the same specious legal reasoning others, including Fox6, have been given.
The Evers Administration has already been sued for its transparency problems.
In August, the MacIver Institute filed a lawsuit claiming Evers violated the First Amendment rights of staff members who were barred from attending a Capitol Press Corps briefing on the governor’s proposed budget.
Matt Kittle, Empower Wisconsin executive director, a former MacIver reporter, is named in the lawsuit.
A review of the Evers administration’s open government practices found a “disturbing departure from” the award-winning transparency practices of former Gov. Scott Walker. The analysis, conducted by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty found the administration to be “dysfunctional and disorganized” in handling requests for public information.
While there are guidelines requesters of government information must follow, the state’s open records law was crafted on the idea that public officials must error on the side of complete public access.
Between Evers’ bad appointments, bad ideas and now ignoring open government, Evers is creating quite a record in his first year in office.