They don’t know how to spell my name, but since the Republican Party doesn’t seem to have posted this response to my recent blog on their own website yet, I thought their side should get a fair hearing here. See below.


I have to say I’m at least as shocked as they say they are, but I’m rapidly gaining an unhappy education about what hardball politics in the United States now looks like.


I worried for a while that my New York Times op-ed on “Wisconsin’s Radical Break” might have gone too far in drawing a carefully limited parallel between the current tactics of the Republican Party in Wisconsin and those of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s…but since the Republican Party seems intent on offering evidence to support that comparison, I guess I should just let their words and actions speak for themselves.


I sure hope we can rebuild a culture of civility and fairness and generosity in this country.  It’s honestly the lack of fair-mindedness in the statement below that I find most disturbing.


For Immediate Release

Contact: Katie McCallum, Communications Director (608) 257-4765

March 25, 2011


In response to Professor William Cronin’s deplorable tactics in seeking to force the Republican Party of Wisconsin to withdraw a routine open records request, Executive Director Mark Jefferson released the following statement:


“Like anyone else who makes an open records request in Wisconsin, the Republican Party of Wisconsin does not have to give a reason for doing so.


“I have never seen such a concerted effort to intimidate someone from lawfully seeking information about their government.


“Further, it is chilling to see that so many members of the media would take up the cause of a professor who seeks to quash a lawful open records request.  Taxpayers have a right to accountable government and a right to know if public officials are conducting themselves in an ethical manner.  The Left is far more aggressive in this state than the Right in its use of open records requests, yet these rights do extend beyond the liberal left and members of the media.


“Finally, I find it appalling that Professor Cronin seems to have plenty of time to round up reporters from around the nation to push the Republican Party of Wisconsin into explaining its motives behind a lawful open records request, but has apparently not found time to provide any of the requested information.


“We look forward to the University’s prompt response to our request and hope those who seek to intimidate us from making such requests will reconsider their actions.”



Republican Party of Wisconsin | 148 East Johnson St. | Madison, Wisconsin 53703
p: 608.257.4765 | f: 608.257.4141| e:


113 Responses to “Republican Party Response to Cronon Critique of Open Records Request”

  • webmaster:

    @everyone. This post is now closed for comments.

  • hans beute:

    [webmaster: personal attack removed]
    @hans: Attacks like this violate the Terms of Service regardless of your viewpoint on these issues. Stop.

  • Alan:

    You may find it amusing to see Republican Party members in Texas actually FIGHTING the “open meetings” laws we have in this state, arguing that the laws illegally deny them freedom of speech. See:

    Unfortunately, people get the government they deserve.

  • Nancy Ames:

    Would it be possible to request, under Open Records, any and all e-mail and other correspondence by our state reps regarding ALEC?

    • Nancy Ames:

      Oops, should have said under FOIA… more coffee, please…

    • Nancy A.:

      yes, Ms. Ames, the public has access to all public records, excluding those that are protected from disclosure, such as confidential employment records, etc. Intriguing thought… for citizens to seek openness in this manner, from their elected officials. You can obtain any record in possession of the government that is not protected.

      Remember of course, that the law, like the open meeting laws, is a holdover from the days when people of open minds and good will thought transparency in government was a good thing. The current crew, having shot themselves in the foot, will likely respond by removing the law. Transparency is not their preferred way of doing business. You could start by asking for all records relating to how their elections were funded….

  • John Mashey:

    The U of VA is under similar attack from AG Cuccinelli.
    This may be a surprise, but distinguished professors are pretty mobile and subject to getting poached by other places. they are very visible and well-known to other schools.
    Via connections I hear U VA professors are already getting more calls from other schools in states without such AGs.

    So, congratulations: UW is a fine university, but that need not last.. Encouraging government to harass distinguished professors on fishing expeditions (as opposed to good reason to think wrongdoing) is a good way to lose them.

    People can hang right in there with ALEC instead, long recipient of cigarette money.

  • The True Conservative:

    My suggestion, since some argue that a FOIA is allowed, whatever the circumstances, is that you do the same to them. Make your own blanket FOIA requests and include the despot Walker, who has betrayed WI, in that request. The truth is, recall is now the answer to GOP dysfunction and power-drunken attempts to have their way with WI freedom.

    Every WI citizen apologizes to America for putting these dysfunctional anti-Americans in power. We promise to make it right via recall and impeachment, and we will also raise enough money so that Walker and Fitzgerald and their GOP totalitarians can buy a one-way ticket to North Korea, where they can bask in the glow of their fellow despots. It’s America, fools – since you hate it, leave it. Freedom is what we have and what we will keep, despite your best GOP efforts to undermine us. Signed, a TRUE CONSERVATIVE who will never vote GOP again after this betrayal

    • plastic899:

      Actually I believe elected officials are specifically exempted under the Wisconsin disclosure law. (How many commenters actually bothered looking at the statute in any detail? Not many, I’ll bet.)

  • Lev Raphael:

    Can someone explain 1) how the professor is “a public official” and 2) how his emails are “official acts” representing the state?

    • plastic899:

      Most likely there have been previous legal cases in Wisconsin involving who is covered under the disclosure law. I haven’t heard anyone, incl. the U. or Prof. C, challenge that e-mails he generated while on the U. of W. email system aren’t covered by the law. The U. of W. is most likely considered a branch of the state government and therefore Prof. C is a state employee. So he is subject to the law equally as much as say the Mayor of Madison. The law is very broad in favor of full disclosure and no exception is made for state employees who happen to be university professors.

      Think about why that is necessary. A corrupt government official could, as part of the corrupt scheme, get himself a cushiony job working for the state university, and route everything through that office, then claim all his activities are immune from inspection. Or, the university could be part of a patronage scheme. (It happens.) There’s no real reason to insulate a university from this kind of a law.

      But, the point of the law is not simply to ferret out corruption. It is that the public has the right to know how its tax dollars are being spent by state employees. Even if there is no corruption at all. Prof. C. is evidently a state employee for purposes of the law.

      There is nothing magical or saintly about someone just because they happen to be a university professor. In terms of “academic freedom,” this use of the law does not impair it, because academic freedom is not about keeping secrets from the public. Prof. C has tenure, his academic freedom is well protected, and if there is something in those emails that he is not proud of having disclosed, he should be prepared to defend it, just like anyone else.

      • G. Rice:

        No one here, including the Professor, has said the GOP doesn’t have the RIGHT, under the law, to make this request. All are simply questioning the wisdom, or in this case, the abject stupidity and childishness of the request. There is a difference.

      • Lev Raphael:

        I did not invoke academic freedom, nor did I talk about saintliness. I simply asked a two-part question which you did not really answer.

        As I read the statute, it does not refer to university professors per se. Time and again it mentions state “officials” and state “officers” and talks about official records (and also monies). I do not see how a university professor is a state official or officer since she or he is not elected or appointed or hired to serve the state on state business the way an attorney general or a clerk is, for example. Nor do I see how an email is an official act of any kind whatsoever. Please quote the relevant portions of the state act to prove your point.

    • cschettl:

      I just emailed the GOP of WI to ask them that. Will post here if I get a response, but don’t hold your breath.

  • Hellmut:

    It’s true, Scott Walker and Professor Cronon are both state employees.

    But Walker exercises coercive power and Cronon does not. Therefore, Walker ought to be subject to open records provisions and Cronon ought not.

    • plastic899:

      Laws of general and broad application can’t be written based on what you think of the current office holder. Next time around you may like the governor and dislike the college professor.

      • Ifan:

        B.S. A university professor doesn’t need to be held to the same levels of public accountability as THE ELECTED EXECUTIVE HEAD OF THE STATE.

  • John Mashey:

    I’m afraid Professor Cronon has run afoul of the same collection of organizations that have harassed climate scientists for years. See Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony (CCC). and continuing with similar attack on U of Virginia and Michael Mann by VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

    ALEC is listed, with a few URLs on CCC p.52, including pointers to their 990 form (they are a 501(c)3 nonprofit).
    p.93 starts 3 pages of funding matrix of funders vs organizations, with the 3 pages sorted roughly by relevance to climate anti-science. ALEC makes the first page.

    As can be seen, of the $3393K identified from 990s and MMAN database:
    $1,200K from ExxonMobil.
    $1,645K from Allegheny (Richard Mellon Scaife; Google his name plus swift boat)
    $0,050 from Scaife family
    $0,273 from Charles G. Koch
    $0,195 from Lambe (Koch brothers)
    $0,450 from Castle Rock

    (This works as follows: the big family foundations provide “seed money” and continuing support, but effectively require ambitious entities to scramble for more and get other donors. This is very cost-effective.)

    The Kochs of course funded Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity, the two key starters for the Tea Party.
    The Kochs run Koch Industries, 2nd-largest private company in USA. Their father was cofounder of John Birch Society.

    In addition, the T at the top shows tobacco connection, as ALEC is oft-mentioned in the tobacco archives such as:
    Philip Morris sends money,
    ALEC and Heartland.

    ALEC has been a big help to tobacco companies in their mission to addict children to tobacco. See The Importance of Younger Adults, 1984, which means 12-18-year-olds. Cigarette companies have known for decades that lifelong customers are created only getting them young. ALEC has helped. Why not? While it’s hard to see how that fits legitimate conservative thinking, tobacco companies pay well.

    • plastic899:


      I can’t wait to see what’s in his emails that Prof. Cronon doesn’t want us to see.

      • Amesley:

        While you make some excellent points, I do think you need to brush up on argument and fallacy basics. You are not responding to the argument Prof. Cronon makes, but to his character and motivations. While this has unfortunately become common practice in most public discourse these days, among people who know better it’s inappropriate and uncivil. I amused myself trying to decide if the particular fallacy you display is distraction, avoiding the question, ad hominem, or something else, but finally concluded it’s a great example of all three. Such argument might make make you popular in politics, where logic has been discarded in favour of rants, but it’s not the discourse the founders of the country embraced; nor is it conducive to the discussion civilized people prefer.

  • Seth:

    Claiming intimidation is part of the GOP playbook these days…

    I’m a public university faculty member in PA, where our Governor proposed a 50% reduction in our state allocation for next year’s budget. Students and our faculty union organized rallies on all 14 of our campuses last week.

    At ours, I was handing out signs before speakers started. As I was trying to hand one to a student, she suddenly snarled at me, “You’re not going to intimidate me waving your sign in my face!”

    Fortunately my gut reaction was to laugh and say, “Usually when somebody offers you something you don’t want, the answer is ‘No thanks.'” But I realize this is another example of appropriating a lefty riff. They did it with “diversity” in the David Horowitz academic ‘freedom’ campaign, among others.

  • Madman:

    The spirit of the FOIA, and Wisconsin’s Open Records laws, are so that the people of Wisconsin (and the U.S.) can gain access to information that went into the decisions of a certain piece of legislation, or policy. It was never intended to be used to undermine and provide substance for an attack on someone with no governmental influence simply because they disagree with a certain political party’s agenda.

    A professor is not the same as a legislator in terms of the influence they have over public policy which can subsequently affect the lives of millions of people in a state. Therefor we cannot apply the FOIA and Open Records laws carte blanche to anyone whose employer gets money from the State or Federal government (as one commenter noted, the University of Wisconsin Madison only receives about 20.2% of it’s budget from the state and 28.8% from federal, making the total 49% (for those not good at math)).

    The GOP makes a fair point that the request is legal (as in the letter of the law permits it). However, it states that Professor Cronon is part of the government, which is a bit misleading. Again, the University receives less that 50% of its funding from the State of Wisconsin, and further the Professor has no influence on public policy.

    I wonder what they would have done if Prof. Cronon was not at a public university? Probably nothing, and that is the point. Just because you have the legal right to take an action, doesn’t make it right.

  • G. Rice:

    Like Former Cheesehead, I was inspired by the email address in the release to send a response:

    Cheeshead, that link in their press release also prompted me to respond to them, but I took a somewhat different tack:

    Dear Republican Party of Wisconsin,

    Thank you for sending one of the most unintentionally hilarious press releases of the year. I can’t tell if it is one of the most unintentionally ironic pieces of media I have ever seen, or some kind of super clever joke that just sailed over our head.
    On further reflection, it can’t be the latter, because the republican party of Wisconsin has no sense of humor, and sure as hell doesn’t employ anyone cool enough or smart enough to write such a spot-on parody.
    No, I’m afraid you meant every word you said here, which demonstrates a complete lack of self awareness.
    Let’s examine your piece, shall we?

    “Like anyone else who makes an open records request in Wisconsin, the Republican Party of Wisconsin does not have to give a reason for doing so.

    [How dare you ask us to disclose the fact that we want to use this man’s email to humiliate and discredit him, and hopefully get him fired?! The nerve! We take what we want, as is our lordly right! We are the republican party of Wisconsin!] 
    “I have never seen such a concerted effort to intimidate someone from lawfully seeking information about their government.
    [Ok, first the grammar: Who is talking here? The first sentence, the republican party was either used as third party plural or first party plural. Now we have first party singular. Who is “I”? The hack who wrote this or the republican party? Did the party gain sentience? Next – intimidate “someone”. Who is someone? The newly sentient party? The hack? Cronon is trying to intimidate YOU, personally? You’re the guy who asked for this? Or he is trying to intimidate the entire party? 
    Moving on – “their government” – now plural possessive? Who are “they”? The Party? But I thought, you, the hack, were being intimidated. Anyway, horrible grammar. 
    Second, the substance: let me make sure I have this straight – a completely powerless public school history teacher is trying to intimidate the big, bad, powerful Walker Fitzgerald Machine by clearly, logically and rationally explaining why the republican party’s clumsy, blatant attempt to intimidate said teacher for lawfully questioning the acts and motivations of that party might be kind of a bad idea. Riiiiiiiiiight. Finally, you are seeking information from your “government”? You do realize that getting paid by the state of Wisconsin doesn’t automatically make you part of the “government”? It makes him a teacher at an institute of public education, which perhaps explains your instant and instinctual hostility towards him.]  
    “Further, it is chilling to see that so many members of the media would take up the cause of a professor who seeks to quash a lawful open records request.  Taxpayers have a right to accountable government and a right to know if public officials are conducting themselves in an ethical manner.  The Left is far more aggressive in this state than the Right in its use of open records requests, yet these rights do extend beyond the liberal left and members of the media.

    [Holy crap. How could you write this without doubling over in fits of laughter? There is too much in here to unpack. You accuse Cronon of ignoring the law, being unaccountable, and hiding his potentially unethical behavior from the citizenry. Today, you ordered your precious new Union busting bill published even though it was against the law to do so, because a Judge (in some more radical states, considered to be a co-equal branch of government) ruled that you broke the law when you enacted it because you, gasp, violated the state’s openness law, which was put in place so that taxpayers could know if public officials are conducting themselves in an ethical manner! It’s like some bad coming of age story – “All of a sudden, The Party stopped typing. It lifted it’s head slowly from the keyboard and stared at the words it had just written, and it started to cry. All along, it wasn’t Cronon it had been describing, it was … Itself…….”.  Truly, that is some nice work.]
    “Finally, I find it appalling that Professor Cronin seems to have plenty of time to round up reporters from around the nation to push the Republican Party of Wisconsin into explaining its motives behind a lawful open records request, but has apparently not found time to provide any of the requested information.

    [What’s this, this history professor at UW commands an army of reporters? What power! What arrogance! And these reporters have the gall to “push” us by asking questions about our nefarious motives and tell other people that we refuse to disclose them? How dare they shirk their responsibilities of editing and disseminating our press releases to the unwashed proletariat.]
    “We look forward to the University’s prompt response to our request and hope those who seek to intimidate us from making such requests will reconsider their actions.”

    [Last paragraph was “I”, then “the Party”, now back to “We” again. Man this sentient party is a little schizophrenic. 
    We, the Party, hope that people, like professor Cronin, who seek to intimidate us, by requesting us to reconsider our actions in seeking to intimidate them, will reconsider their actions.]

    Thanks guys, or Party, or whatever the hell you are, you are hilarious.

  • Ladyrantsalot:

    Wow, it just occurred to me. It’s pretty standard these days to send letters assessing the suitability of candidates for promotion and tenure as attachments to emails. I imagine someone of Prof. Cronon’s stature gets tons of requests from across the country to assess such candidates. Can you imagine that sort of communication being dragged into the public realm–or, even worse, getting into the hands of politically vengeful people? And that’s only the tip of the iceberg: what about assessments of job candidates (when you can’t attend a departmental meeting); correspondence regarding the hiring of a new dean (who is now your boss); correspondence about graduate students who might be dropped from a Ph.D. program; etc. etc. This sort of correspondence is never intended for public consumption.

  • You know, I don’t remember you asking them to quash anything… if anything I remember your good natured “c’mon in and have a look!”

    Maybe our expectations of civility are outdated? Hm.

  • Patty Zan Blinders:

    Hello everyone!

    I am curious about the process involved to request a release of public employee records. It sounds like it requires little or no justification as to the reason for the request. What would the reaction be if multiple citizens requested the release of all emails by all state employees, including all teachers, professors, politicians, police, firefighters, sanitation workers, and snow plowers? It seems unlikely the state would comply and blanket release all this correspondence. Yet by denying such a request they would have a hard time justifying the release of just Cronon’s emails.

    I maintain the spirit of FOIA requests is a public check on the activities of politicians and those in politically appointed offices. Only demonstrably improper conduct by a state worker not involved in the political process should justify the investigating of their professional communication. The only reason our public university is subject to this request is that it is funded in small part by the state so that the whole state can continue to benefit from the discoveries and benefits of a world class research university.

  • C Stroebel:

    Professor Cronon,

    I agree with you that this moment in Wisconsin turns on fairness and integrity, and now also accountability.

    Thank you for your conscientious objection to the scurrilous behavior of our elected officials and their political backers.


    C Stroebel

  • Plastic899:

    From the U. of Wisc. website:

    “What is the Wisconsin Public Records Law?

    In its most general terms the Wisconsin Public Records Law provides that any requester may inspect and/or copy any record that is not specifically excepted by some provision of state or federal law. The law specifically declares that it is the public policy of this state that all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them. Providing such persons with such information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of the officers and employees whose responsibility it is to provide such information. The Public Records Law is to be construed in every instance with a presumption of complete public access, consistent with the conduct of governmental business. The denial of public access generally is contrary to the public interest, and only in an exceptional case may access be denied.”

    • Lev Raphael:

      The Open Records policy does not seem to refer to professors expressing their opinions. He does not represent the state, so why is this UW professor, then, included, if he’s not a state official and his blog is not an official act?

      • plastic899:

        Hi Lev Raphael:

        Well I can’t say I actually read the law thoroughly, but if you skim it (the prof linked to it), the U. of W. is evidently considered a state entity or corporation which is covered by the law. There doesn’t seem to be any dispute about that. Also, as the prof. is considered an employee and employees of state entities are covered too. It’s a very broad law. Conversely, actual elected public officials seem to have an exemption, although I wouldn’t bet the ranch on that.

        There are many exemptions which seem to prohibit disclosure of things like student identifying information, contractor information, trade secrets, working drafts, and so forth. This is all stuff for the lawyers to haggle over.

        By in effect stating that this law should apply generally, except not to himself, Prof. Cronon will IMO cause a great deal of damage to the public’s right to access government records, if he is successful. There is no exception for college professors, nor for the vague concept of “academic freedom.” There ARE exceptions for specific types of information for which a compelling privacy interest can be shown.

        As a state employee, Prof. C. IS part of the government–whether he wants to acknowledge that, or not. And therefore, if no applicable exceptions apply, the public–including the hated Republican party–has a right to access the info.

  • Bart:

    From the Republican Party of Wisconsin:

    “Further, it is chilling to see that so many members of the media would take up the cause of a professor who seeks to quash a lawful open records request.”

    I can’t decide whether their use of the word “chilling” is chutzpah or projection.

  • Jackie Marvel:

    Rock on, Doc. You are hilarious, clever, diplomatic and on point. Behind you 100%.

  • Alexander:

    It seems like the Republicans have found this blog post based on the latest comments.

    Important note: Normal people do not refer to their opponents as “Liberals” when said opponents have not identified themselves as such. The transformation of the word “Liberal” into a pejorative term is solely the domain of the extreme American right. Bear this in mind when reading their comments.

    Although, since you’ve brought up the fact that you believe the law should apply equally to everyone, how about that illegal passage of the collective bargaining bill, and the subsequent ignoring of a court ordered restraining order on publication of said bill? If you believe so strongly in the equal hand of the law, then you must be OUTRAGED at the actions of the Republican party in the state of Wisconsin, right?

  • Alan S. Albin:


    I find it rather ironic that you, as an employee of the state, are asserting some kind of blanket immunity from responding to a lawful records request.

    Surely your university has a general counsel’s office.

    And just as surely, your university and/or department has an e-mail server, records retention policy, and a policy of how the university (not you, personally, since this is not about you, personally) should respond to such requests; etc.

    The only sensible reaction to a records request of this nature is to simply turn it over to your university’s general counsel, and let them do their job. It is up to them, not you, to determine whether the Republicans’ info. request is in accordance with Wisconsin law, and if any legal objections exist, to exercise them by filing the appropriate motion with the relevant judicial entity.

    You should have absolutely ZERO objection to disclosure of those of your records which the law requires must be disclosed. We are all bound to follow the law–yes, even liberal college professors in Wisconsin. The motivations, political or otherwise, of those seeking disclosure are none of your concern–unless of course Wisconsin law judges the merit of a disclosure request, at least in part, upon the motivations of those who are seeking it.

    You would do far more to support whatever principles you purport to represent by approaching this with equanimity, calm, and candor, rather than the rather panicky, politicized response you seem impelled to issue.

    In sum, you should probably reserve any further public comment on this issue and let your attorneys handle things.

    • Tim:

      Yes, Professor. You have no right to express your opinion. The First Amendment doesn’t apply to you, or at least you should not be exercising it over this matter, that just isn’t “cricket”, according to Rules Master Alan S. Albin.

      You should just shut up and turn it over. Don’t be like Governor Walker, who wanted a check for, I believe, $25,000 or more to cover his “expenses” after ignoring a request from the AP for several weeks. Don’t be like Governor Walker, who made the AP take it to court.

      I’m sure that those of us protesting at the Capitol should have just shut up and gone home in Alan S. Albin’s world. I’m glad I refuse to live in his world.

    • Zach:

      There are legitimate reasons to believe that there should be some justification for accessing a University professor’s e-mails. Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right. This is why people call conservatives like yourself authoritarian; you think that something being legal makes it right (unless it’s something you disagree with of course!). Laws can, and in many cases should, be changed. If you think there’s something wrong with a law, you have every right to protest it.

      In this case, Professor Cronon has already given a very good explanation for why this is a big threat. If University professors feel that anything they write may be used against them by a political party or the media, this will have a tremendous impact on academic freedom. People in academia should never feel afraid that something they might say or write in the context of their work will be used to harm them.

      It’s ironic that the same conservatives who talk so much about freedom don’t think that people should question a law.

    • Andrew_in_NH:

      Mr. Albin, perhaps you should read the original message again. Professor Cronon does not reject the request. I’m pretty sure that he said that it appears to be a technically valid request.

      What he wanted to write about was the peculiar nature of the request, coming as it did from the Republican Party, not from a law-enforcement group or an elected official concerned with the administration of the education system. For such a request to come from the offices of any political party under the circumstances should be of interest and concern to all of us. He also wanted to make it known that the request displayed reasonable indications that it was meant as a technique for intimidation. As indicated, it seems strange action from the party that has declared itself the champion of personal freedom and denounced the intrusion of Big Government into aspects of life where it does not belong.

      Pointing out this disconnect, and expressing a hope that rational reflection might lead to the request being withdrawn, are not the same as demanding that it be withdrawn or refusing to provide information. As he acknowledged and as others have pointed out, the actual determination as to whether any e-mails will be released, as well as the selection of what is released, will be handled by the administration of the university, not the professor. He is obstructing nothing. All he has done with these postings is to express his concerns about something that looks very much like a coercive and questionable use of a useful tool by a major political party.

  • Scott:

    Bob, I don’t believe you’ve correctly read Prof. Cronon’s position on the matter.

  • JohnC:

    Perhaps it is time to make open records requests to all Republican senators and assemblymen and their staffers for all emails containing the words “cronon” (or “cronin”), “unions,” etc. If the GOP wants to make work, they should be ready to get some as well…

  • Nancy:

    The extreme right has gone completely off the rails, declaring war against working people and intellectuals (….not just intellectuals, but even the concept of intelligence). I’m sorry you’ve become their latest target. Count me among your supporters against their crusade of stupidity and greed.

  • Bob Stone:

    Sorry, but the GOP is right in this matter. They have the same rights under the open records law, and no obligation of explanation. Same as Isthmus, myself, or anyone else. It doesn’t just apply to one side and not another. More chilling is saying certain folks are exempted from the law. EVERY request generates these same responses, might as well scrap the law if you think some people or philosophies or reasoning supersede it. Cronon is a public employee and ALL of his university emails are public information as clearly communicated to everyone that receives a university email account. Some documents can be withheld from requests, also clearly laid out, but reason must be given. To argue that anyone is “more” in some way goes against the whole purpose of the law. It also gives credence to those that feel many on the left act from a “do as I say, not as I do” position. Would folks feel the same if it was a lowly Academic Staff member, or does the outrage only apply to the ever-shrinking rarefied faculty club?

    • Zeno:

      No, a professor’s e-mail is not automatically available to the public because he teaches at state university. If I write to a student to explain why he or she got an F on an exam, that is not public information. If I write to my dean to report a problem with a student, that is not automatically public information. Despite my not being any kind of expert on Wisconsin’s open-records law, I am certain beyond reasonable doubt that a professor’s e-mail is private unless its content is pertinent to a matter under litigation or investigation. The state GOP is “investigating” Cronon so as to intimidate him. Nothing more. Nothing less.

      • Anita Jagodzinski:

        You are spot-on, Zeno. As both an elected official and a public school employee, I am relatively familiar with the open records law. In no instance does it grant unlimited access to a public employee’s e-mail, for precisely the reasons you’ve mentioned. I do find it hilarious that the repub(s) made this statement: “I have never seen such a concerted effort to intimidate someone from lawfully seeking information about their government.” Really? I have. In fact, It’s been happening to thousands of protestors in Madison and all across our state since Walker took office, more frequently since February 11, and has happened each day since then.

        Thank you, Dr. Cronon, for writing what so many of us had been thinking but couldn’t find the words to express.

  • Leo:

    It seems an unnecessary point to make, but I’ll take the bait: political independence can’t be expected to be reflected in an “even split” voting record.

    Voting predominantly for Democratic candidates or for Republican candidates is not, by necessity, reflective of a failure to live up to personal claims of political independence. Certainly, voting for either party’s candidates should not be construed as support for all of their collective or personal policies. For example, I often find myself in the unfortunate position of feeling as though I should vote one way or the other in order to keep someone with whom I strongly disagree out of office. (I admit, this position is difficult to defend, and I rarely feel good about taking it. On the other hand, I don’t appreciate criticism for not voting. Ah, peer pressure… When I find my personal politics unrepresented by Democrats and Republicans alike, I desperately wish that I could participate in the two-party system by voting “No Confidence”.)

    So long as Prof. Cronon feels that his personal politics (as reflected in the voting booth) are relatively uninfluenced by Party and Party-oriented rhetoric, he is politically independent. A voting record that leans one way or the other (or another, if he votes primarily for third parties) may just as easily point toward a history of voting against the under-represented party rather than for the well-represented party. While voting Republican amounts to voting for a (or many) Republican(s) where statistics are involved, voting Republican can amount to voting against Democrat where personal politics are concerned.

    Finally, based on the sobriety of Prof. Cronon’s writing, I personally expect he is self-aware enough to be able to identify himself accurately as “politically independent.”

    (Clearly, I am not speculating about Prof. Cronon’s political leanings. Likewise, B’s request may not have been made with the intention of identifying Prof. Cronon as a closet-Democrat or closet-Republican. The above request is sufficiently loaded, though, that I thought it deserved a response.)

    Finally finally, thank you for your writing, Prof. Cronon. It’s been a subject of much conversation in the halls of Vilas.

  • B:

    Dear Professor,

    As someone who finds your claim to be “politically independent” dubious, could you share exactly how many times you’ve voted for a Republican for governor or in a national election during the past 20 years?

    Kind Regards,

    • Former Cheesehead:

      It makes no difference what political party he belongs to, so why should he bother to answer that? The tactics being used are wrong regardless of who Professor Cronon has voted for or whether he supports the current governor. Are you suggesting that the request is valid if he has voted for Democratic governors but not valid if he has voted for Republicans?

      It was the Republican GOP in Wisconsin that filed the FOIA, not Cronon. Maybe you should ask them why they think his political views are relevant.

    • Lei Zarycki:

      When voting in the USA you do not have to disclose who you voted for, ever.

      Additionally communications between students and their academic professors, deans, teachers are exempt from FOIA. The request the Republican Party of Wisconsin made is extremely broad in scope and date range and understandably will take a fair amount of time to collect and be sorted through. Especially since the rights of students privacy must be preserved.

      Also the professor has every right to openly speculate about the potential motives for such a tremendously broad request that would cause great strife on the behalf of the professor and possibly make it difficult to perform his professional duties in an effort to respond as quickly as possible.

      I suspect the Wisconsin Republican Party knows how difficult it would be to not only gather and sort through the information but requested the unusually broad date range to bury the professor in paperwork and in hopes that it will deter the professor from making any other uncomfortable public speculations that cause a great deal of scrutiny to the party’s questionable activities.

      Furthermore once the professor has handed over the information (and to my knowledge Prof. Cronon has not made any statements that he won’t comply with the FOIA request), it isn’t unreasonable to speculate that the Wisconsin Republican party will try to find anything that might embarrass the professor (and possibly colleagues or students) even if he hasn’t committed any breach of his position or use of his University provided email account.

  • Former Cheesehead:

    My e-mail to the Wisconsin Republican GOP to the e-mail address kindly provided in their press release:

    My greatest regret about no longer living is Wisconsin is that I will miss out on the opportunity to vote to recall 8 “Republican” senators and a governor that are behaving like fascists in homage to their corporate puppetmasters. Fortunately, I can still donate money to the noble cause to restore Fitzwalkerstan to the formerly democratic state of Wisconsin and free my relatives. If my father had not passed away last June in Wisconsin, I think he might have died this month from the shame of living in a state governed by a group of corrupt morons.

    Your response to Professor Cronon for exposing your intimidation tactics resembles nothing more than a child who strikes another child and then complains to his teacher that another child hit him (of course, this analogy won’t work for much longer, since Wisconsin Republicans are determined to do away with those evil, rich teachers).

    You have no legitimate reason for seeking Professor Cronon’s correspondence; your motivation can only be as he logically suggests. Clearly, this fishing expedition for anything you can use to assaut Professor Cronon and his livelihood is the Wisconsin Republican party’s new tactics of intimidation to silence critics.

    What does this remind me of? What countries use intimidation to silence critics? Oh yes, those autocratic governments in the Middle East currently in the process of being overthrown. Since you so desperately want to emulate those power-hungry dictators, might I suggest dispensing with the FOIA request and going straight for the arrest and torture? Oops, I forgot how much Republicans hate to use the word torture to describe torturing people–I mean to say, “enhanced interrogation.”

    The thing is that people who are oppressed rise up in support of freedom. America did it in 1776, France did it, and citizens all over the world who live in oppressed regimes are doing it at this very moment. You know who else is doing it? The people of Wisconsin, who are signing petitions en masse to recall Wisconsin’s corrupt Republicans and replace them with public servants who do the will of the people–not the will of the Koch brothers.

    And if you’re just a lowly employee reading this instead of someone who matters, you should really find another job. You can do better than working for these corrupt politicians who are ignoring the Constitution and giving away YOUR money to rich industrialists. I know you think someday you will be one of those rich people, but look at the numbers…the odds aren’t very good. They just like to convince you of that so you will continue to support their efforts to shift more of your money over to the people who are so wealthy they spend $18k a night on hotel rooms for their cats or $350,000 having their dogs cloned (look it up, I’m not kidding).

    And why do they do that? Because then those wealthy people give them money to help them keep their government jobs or offer them positions when they are no longer in government. And why do they care so much about keeping their jobs? I suggest you ask Randy Hopper. You don’t seriously think he’d have snagged a 26-year-old girlfriend if he were an accountant, do you?

    A girlfriend that probably makes more money than you do in her cushy government job that she got without an interview?

    It’s funny that they complain about teachers making “a median” of $50,000 per year in Wisconsin but seem to have no trouble giving a 26-year-old a job that pays nearly as much.

    I guess budget cutting only counts when you can use it to try to ruin the lives of your opponents.

    Gotta love those “family values” Republicans. As Hopper proves, they don’t even value their own families—let alone anyone else’s.