They Tell You What They Are: Wisconsin Republicans and the Open Records Attack Everyone Saw Coming

Wisconsin Republicans say SORRY NOT SORRY they were about to gut the state’s open records laws, and we’ll convene a committee to decide when to do this later so there won’t be so much  attention paid, and now let us get back to talking about how university professors are the root of all evil: 

Faced with a swift and fierce backlash, Republicans Saturday abandoned a plan that would have gutted the state’s open records law.

In a joint statement issued Saturday afternoon, Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislative leaders said the provisions relating to any changes to the law would be removed from the state budget.

“After substantive discussion over the last day, we have agreed that the provisions relating to any changes in the state’s open records law will be removed from the budget in its entirety. We are steadfastly committed to open and accountable government,” the statement read. “The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents’ privacy and to encourage a deliberative process between elected officials and their staff in developing policy. It was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way.”

The announcement came from Walker, but it was also attributed to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette). Darling and Nygren are co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee.

Read Doc’s post from Friday, if you please. 

Newspapers across the state were absolutely outraged. Journalists were up in arms on Twitter. Everyone was so, so angry.

The Wisconsin State Journal, Friday: 

Aren’t Republicans supposed to favor responsibility? Apparently, Wisconsin Republicans do not.

Among several troubling passages inserted into the state budget Thursday night is this doozy: “No provision of the state’s public records law that conflicts with a rule or policy of the Senate or Assembly or joint rule or policy of the Legislature applies to a record that is subject to such rule or policy.”

In other words, state lawmakers do what they want, when they want — and taxpayers will be in the dark.

Paging the tea party: This is just the sort of government arrogance it should despise. Who is in charge here? The people or the politicians?

The Wisconsin State Journal, endorsing Scott Walker: 

Walker’s pledge to stop a modern, high-speed passenger train — one that’s already paid for — is disturbing. So is Walker’s excessive pandering to social conservatives on issues such as embryonic stem-cell research and abortion.

But Walker is no extremist. The Republican has been repeatedly re-elected in a hugely-Democratic county.

The Wisconsin State Journal, “analyzing” that protests against Walker and his cronies are so, so awful and passé: 

Is it possible that some Capitol protesters have jumped the shark?

Now, before you form a drum circle outside our office and start a petition to recall OTC, hear us out. When the protests started, they were in many ways inspiring. No matter your politics, seeing thousands gather peacefully for a cause while remaining reasonably civil throughout was impressive.

But increasingly in the past few weeks, groups have interrupted committee meetings and press conferences, as well as Assembly and Senate sessions, dressed in costumes and acting out plays that seem to undercut the seriousness of the issues. And more often than not, someone is trailing them with a camera phone or some other kind of recording device.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Friday: 

The proposals would hide from public view a slew of records created by the Walker administration and other state agencies.

This eyes-wide-open attempt to blind the public was, of course, never discussed in open session. And state Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), co-chair of the powerful budget-writing committee, wouldn’t say who inserted the changes into the bill.

Nygren assures us, though, that the changes will be good for the public.

Just who does he think he’s kidding?

Secrecy may be good for powerful legislators such as Nygren or for his co-chair, state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). And secrecy may be just fine for legislators who don’t want the public to know what they are doing or with whom they are working.

But secrecy is a plague on citizens. These proposals would set back by decades the cause of open government in Wisconsin. Any representative who votes to approve a budget containing such broad limits on the public’s right to know is not fit to hold office.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, endorsing Walker in his RECALL election: Yeah, he’s a scum-sucking liar but real democracy is messy and rude and why does everything have to be so mean all the time?

Even if you disagree with Walker’s policies, does that justify cutting short his term as governor? And if so, where does such logic lead? To more recall elections? More turmoil?

It’s time to end the bickering and get back to the business of the state. We’ve had our differences with the governor, but he deserves a chance to complete his term. We recommended him in 2010. We see no reason to change that recommendation. We urge voters to support Walker in the June 5 recall election.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, deploring the recalls:

Enormous amounts of money have been raised on both sides; much of that, again on both sides, is coming from folks and interests outside Wisconsin. Our guess is the ads will be ugly and divisive, especially once we move past the primary. This recall is seen by some here and elsewhere as part of a larger struggle taking place across the country. It also carries the potential, as Walker told the Editorial Board this week, for setting the stage for a constant recall election cycle.

And we still maintain this is all unnecessary because it essentially boils down to one issue: last year’s legislation that severely curtailed bargaining rights for most public employees. Politicians, regardless of party, should not be recalled over one issue or one (or even several) votes.

Which is why we hope that state Sen. Robin Vos reintroduces his bill to make it more difficult to conduct recalls in Wisconsin. It’s just too easy now, and Wisconsin needs to curb this fever as soon as it can.

Republicans showed Wisconsin journalists time and time again who they were. They showed journalists they didn’t care about openness and learning and their constituents and working people.

In the face of those demonstrations, journalists chose to whine about protesters in costumes and the mean, mean ads in elections and engage in magical thinking about how Republicans would govern as “moderates” even though THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED EVER. With all the information available to them, editors of Wisconsin’s largest newspapers decided they’d continue to endorse Republicans.

And then came journalists, shocked and appalled. Attacks on open records and investigative journalism! Untruths! Lies! Perfidy! They were utterly gobsmacked by the temerity and arrogance of these Republican legislators. Never before had there been such an assault on freedom!

Not since the last time, anyway. Or the time before that or before that or before that. When those same newspapers’ editorial pages were significantly less outraged.

Lest it seem like I am blaming the victims here, no, this is not okay because it results in the coming home and roosting there at of chickens the state’s largest newspapers pretended did not exist until covered in chicken shit.

The majority of the people who would have been hurt by these changes to Wisconsin’s historically lenient open records laws would not have been prominent journalists whose FOIAs got denied but ordinary citizens who could not access basic information pertaining to their own lives. These changes should have been deplored and opposed.

Just like attacks on the public’s right to know when Republican legislators were demonstrating contempt for the state university system’s ENTIRE EXISTENCE and reason for being.

Just like Republican lawmakers’ contempt for openness when they were talking about secretly sabotaging protesters. 

They told you who they were, time and time again. They told you what they believed and what they wanted and when they wanted it, and they told you they didn’t care. And now you’re shocked? Now you’re appalled? Now something had to be done? Now the backlash was swift, and fierce?

Where was it four years ago, five, six?

Presumably it was busy opining that really, hippies are smelly, and protests are like, so over.


2 thoughts on “They Tell You What They Are: Wisconsin Republicans and the Open Records Attack Everyone Saw Coming

  1. “[M]ore often than not, someone is trailing them with a camera phone or some other kind of recording device.” Why, it’s almost as if those dirty fucking hippies didn’t trust the Wisconsin State Journal to provide comprehensive and accurate coverage of the protests!

    Not to mention the curiously incurious Wisconsin media, who simply accept the “self-writing legislation” theory of the my-goodness-how-did-THAT-get-in-there decimation of the Open Records Law. Call Inspector Bush to check behind the drapes and under the piano; he’ll find out where it came from, or at least provide a few chuckles with his comic stylings.

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