Wisconsin GOP Wants E-Mails Sent by Professor Who Wrote Critical Blog Post

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 25 2011 11:27 AM

Wisconsin GOP Wants E-Mails Sent by Professor Who Wrote Critical Blog Post

On March 15, University of Wisconsin Prof. William Cronon wrote a blog post -- a lengthy info-dump -- pointing to the role that the American Legislative Exchange Council played inspiring the state's anti-collective bargaining law. It was a punchy item. "The governor clearly welcomes the national media attention he’s receiving as a spear-carrier for the movement," wrote Cronon. But he also called himself a "pragmatic centrist" with no partisan dog in the fight. "ALEC’s efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote Democratic, for instance, and its efforts to destroy public-sector unions because they also tend to favor Democrats, strike me as objectionable and anti-democratic (as opposed to anti-Democratic) on their face."

Cronon would place an op-ed in the New York Times about ALEC on March 22. But before that , apparently in response to the blog post, Stephan Thompson of the Wisconsin GOP sent an e-mail to John Dowling at UW's office of Administrative Legal Services.

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From: Stephan Thompson
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2011 2:37 PM
To: Dowling, John
Subject: Open Records Request

Dear Mr. Dowling,

Under Wisconsin open records law, we are requesting copies of the following items:

Copies of all emails into and out of Prof. William Cronon’s state email account from January 1, 2011 to present which reference any of the following terms: Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell.

We are making this request under Chapter 19.32 of the Wisconsin state statutes, through the Open Records law. Specifically, we would like to cite the following section of Wis. Stat. 19.32 (2) that defines a public record as "anything recorded or preserved that has been created or is being kept by the agency. This includes tapes, films, charts, photographs, computer printouts, etc."

Thank you for your prompt attention, and please make us aware of any costs in advance of preparation of this request.

Sincerely,

Stephan Thompson

Republican Party of Wisconsin

I'm apparently one of several reporters who's called the Wisconsin GOP to ask what the purpose of this is -- it seems obvious, but it's good to check. No answer yet. In a vacuum, Cronon assumes the state party is looking for a violation of policy that bans anyone with a state e-mail address from using it to "support the nomination of any person for political office or to influence a vote in any election or referendum."

The first person to actually lose a job over e-mails that discuss the Wisconsin battle is actually a poor sucker from Indiana -- Carlos Lam, a deputy prosecutor in Johnson County, Indiana, who sent this e-mail, then denied sending it after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism FOIA'd it , then admitted sending it.


David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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