Republican Party Response to Cronon Critique of Open Records Request

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 thoughts on “Republican Party Response to Cronon Critique of Open Records Request”

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

    Eek! You put up a blog post! Next up in your evil plan will be to…WRITE A LETTER!

    1. HAAAAAhahahahaha. I wanted to write something intelligent and reasoned, but I prefer the laughter cure better, actually. Thank the gods some of us still have a sense of humor.


  2. They’re shocked–shocked!–that anyone saw through their original ridiculous attempt at intimidation.

    Keep up the good work. You seem to be hitting at least a few of the right buttons.

  3. The part I have a problem with is the idea that all state instituions are equivalent to “government,” and by extension that any employee of one of these institutions is a “public official.”

  4. I’ve spent most of my adult life voting for Republicans. After all of the political games and accusations ….not to mention ALL of the lies the Republicans have had to publicly admit to over the past month, it will be a long time (if ever) before I have enough trust or respect for Republicans to even consider voting for them again.

    This response to Dr. Cronon is just one more reason for me leave the Republican party behind forever. The current class of Republicans is an embarassment to Wisconsin. Thanks, Wisconsin GOP, for helping me to see the light and realize what a mistake it was to ever affiliate with your party.

  5. The question of motives is not answered directly by the Republican Party of Wisconsin, but it definitely comes through loud and clear in the statement released. I have always been proud to say I graduated from Madison. I really hope this does not impact its reputation.

  6. You have supporters all around the world. Thank you for standing up for what is right and that is to tell the truth. Apparently you’re getting too close to the truth for comfort for these guys.

  7. Oh, to be young again and involved in academic life. What better place to be than at the University of Wisconsin in these inspiring times? The easy question here is whether ideas, inquiry and truth are stronger than money. Money surely has a lot in its favor: news media, ability to bribe and scare politicians, ability to hire counter-protesters and other operatives, appeal to people of authoritarian bent, support from gullible and submissive people, and ability to spend endlessly on legal harassment and intimidation.

    The Achilles heel of money, though, is that by itself it is stupid. It depends on humans to be used properly and effectively. Ideas are ultimately more powerful, as tyrants have learned painfully throughout human history.

    So I say, to the games! Though your opponents are unworthy, they represent great evil. Defeating them should be great fun.

  8. I’d like to leave a comment, but first I need to know if this blog is part of the government system or if it is private.

  9. Let’s see…obfuscation, not addressing any of the points, attacking third parties. Yeah, that sounds like a Republican Press Release. It looks like you’ve hit really close to home on this one.

  10. So: you use “deplorable tactics” and they find you “appalling”?

    Really? blogging? writing Op-Eds for a national newspaper? Since when did that become deplorable or appalling?

    Thank you for taking the high road and staying “above the line” (as they would say in my children’s elementary school) in your discourse. We should be able to disagree and debate without name calling and bullying. We expect that of our children, do we not?

    ….But in their defense on one point, you name is rather hard to spell.

  11. Of course the Republicans don’t support academic freedom; they don’t support educational endeavors at all. Just take a look at the funding hits that public schools all over the country are taking. We’ll get jobs back in this country when everyone is ignorant and trampled enough to work for cheaper than our current foreign counterparts.

  12. Thank you, Professor Cronon, for your principled stance on this issue. I find it ironic and a bit disgusting that they accuse you of the very intimidation they are attempting.

    Keep up the good, and inspiring, work.

    1. This is standard GOP SOP. Karl arove was the best; scream someone is doing something that you are doing – while they are not. Yell, moan, blame and detail ad nauseum why it’s awful, unlawful and only LIBERALS do it. It doesn’t matter that you are doing it and they are not, just say they are as that is always evidence enough. What’s truly sad is how often it’s not questioned.

      Standard Operating Procedures.

  13. This press release inspired me to go to the Republican party of Wisconsin’s website to read more of their perspectives on recent events. They obviously excel at hyperbole and paranoia. Here’s how they characterize the protests at the Capitol:


    Union Leaders Aim for Mob Rule at the State Capitol
    Security Threat Shuts Down Democracy

    Madison, Wis…After successfully chasing Senate Democrats out-of-state in order to circumvent the democratic process, unruly union protesters in the Capitol shut down debate by intimidation again on Friday at the State Capitol.

    The Political web site WisPolitics reported this evening that Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald adjourned floor proceedings because the safety of legislators and staff could no longer be assured in the State Capitol building.

    According to Mark Jefferson, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, union attempts to shut down the democratic process by mob rule are a deplorable insult to voters, taxpayers, and democracy itself.

    “To willfully prevent elected officials from performing their official duties in order to circumvent the legislative process flies in the face of democracy and is an insult to the citizens of this state,” Jefferson said.

    As their reckless behavior, threats to elected officials, and crass language have demonstrated over the course of the past few days, union leaders on strike to shut down democracy have once again put their own best interests over the interests of Wisconsin taxpayers.

    “Governor Walker was elected to fix a broken system,” Jefferson said. “Walker and Republicans campaigned and won on that platform, and the will of the people will not be suppressed by intimidation. State government is broken and the time for reform is now.”

  14. I stumbled across your “Study guide for those who wish to no more ” while I was researching WPRI. It was well thought out and well written so I passed it on. Seems a lot of people felt the same way. Please keep writing on this topic as it unfolds. Your clarity is refreshing.

  15. Hello!

    I thought you might be interested to know that your story has now reached Texas, and Talking Points Memo has picked it up and put it on their front page. The article is located here:

    Although I am in Texas, and so am only watching the Wisconsin labor struggles from afar, you should know that you have some far-flung support. Things must be scary for you right now. Please don’t let yourself be intimidated! IMHO, the Republicans are out of line. Good luck!

  16. Mr. Cronon, keep up the good work.

    Perhaps as a follow up to your New York Times op-ed, you could write about the current republican party behavior relates to authoritarian leadership style discussed in Bob Altemeyer’s book, the Authoritarians (

    1. Sorry for the typos, I meant to type:

      Mr. Cronon, keep up the good work. Perhaps as a follow up to your New York Times op-ed, you could write another one discussing how the current republican party behavior relates to authoritarian leadership style described in Bob Altemeyer’s book, the Authoritarians (

      1. John – I’m glad you bring up Bob Altmeyer – I’ve been recommending his book a lot lately. It’s definitely worth a read.

  17. Blogs, letters, newspaper articles — yes, here is another vote that laughter is the only rational response to the Republican party of Wisconsin clutching their pearls and screeching “deplorable tactics!” when confronted with rational discourse. So “ha ha” at republicans of my chilly state, and to Professor Cronon a great big THANK YOU FOR FIGHTING FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM.

  18. I’ve got a great idea, Professor Cronon: why doesn’t every History professor in the country teaching at a public university cc Scott Walker and Mark Jefferson on every e-mail we send and forward them copies of every e-mail we receive? I’d think it would be a boon to your state’s economy, since they’d have to hire a lot of people to read through all of those e-mails and decide whether or not we’re breaking our different state laws with our university e-mail accounts.

    They asked for a garden sprinkler, so let’s turn on the firehose.

  19. Dear Professor Cronon,
    As someone who spent part of today commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the 146 workers who died there, the new attack on you reminds me, yet again, that we are going to have to re-fight things that we thought were safe. There can be no more complacency.
    Oh, I, too teach at a public university and am a member of a union.
    and Keep the faith.

  20. This is the classic tactic taught to republican operatives at the Karl Rove and Sean Hannity school of discourse: accuse your opponents of exactly the thing that you are doing. They accuse you of “intimidation” when, in fact, it is they who are doing the intimidation. Truly deplorable.

    1. ” accuse your opponents of exactly the thing that you are doing”

      That’s a fair charge and a keen observation. It is a technique we see commonly from the modern right. It not only follows the “always attack, never defend” dictum but it directs attention elsewhere and functions to suggest that because all are equally guilty of the same behavior therefore the perpetrator’s guilt, being un-unique, evaporates. It can also be used pre-emptively. That is, if you are about to do something which would normally cause community approbation if revealed (and you understand it might well be revealed) you can spend a week or month charging your opponent of it, then if caught, the same dynamics as above come into play.

      @Professor Cronon

      Very sorry to see these characters come at you in this manner. It is their mode of operation and it is despicable.

  21. If ONE FOIA request is good, wouldn’t thousands be better?

    Seriously, could we private citizens file FOIA requests targeted at known conservative faculty members throughout the State of Wisconsin?

    Let those faculty get the flavor of what is going on here, maybe they can explain it better to the Republican Party why this is a destructive and self-destructive tactic?

    Sent from a private computer from a non-union, non-government employee citizen of Wisconsin who thinks Randy Hopper is a great porn name (just so this email has more of the search terms listed by Republicans)

    1. How about we all file FOIA requests with the republican representatives of this state on all levels with the only specific search term being ALEC?

      1. Like the idea, but not using just one search term – you need ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, Exchange, Council, the names of each member of the board of directors (first and last, and last by itself), their staff and board of directors by individual name (SourceWatch has the list), Koch (the brothers are listed as major donors), and the proper and popular names of controversial legislation such as the “budget repair bill” and “voter ID bill.” There’s probably more, but that’s what I came up with after five minutes’ thought and the help of Google.

        Also, you could search the expenses of all the Republican legislators in Wisconsin and see if they declared their payment for membership in ALEC (and check to see if they used taxpayer money to pay for it). If they squawk about it, I’d point out that if their membership came out of their election to public office, then it’s disclosable.

        Finally, OT just a little – ALEC’s website is down. Don’t know if it crashed from the high volume of new visitors because of the visibility of Prof. Cronon’s plight or if they chose to take it down, though personally I’d bet on the latter.

  22. Bill, I have wondered for the past month and more just who would be the historian to write the book about the events in Wisconsin in 2011. Now more than ever (allusion to the political past) — who better to pen that book than you? For one thing, you will have at hand the original copies of these crucial primary sources, the requests allegedly from “the Republican Party”!

    Now, hie thee to your publisher to get that book contract, and then everything that you have written or will write in or on Wisconsin in 2011 is related, and then you will have the publisher’s lawyers on the case in case of further requests.

    Stay strong.

  23. If the Republicans in Wisconsin are so interested in defending the concept of freedom of information, perhaps they are interested in releasing all of Gov. Scott Walker’s emails to his cronies in Corporate Amerika.

  24. “intimidate someone from lawfully seeking information about their government”

    That the Republican Party believes a history professors email account represents “their government” explains much about their woeful incompetence at actually governing and not just “playing” politics-the-game.

    The southern witticism we use in Missouri is “Can’t find their own rear ends with both hands.” [cleaned up]

  25. This would be hilarious if it wasn’t being done by the people who run the state. Good God.

  26. You know, I suspect that your ability to think critically and to present your ideas with measured civility may actually be intimidating for these stooges. Also, is it me, or do I hear the voice of (not F.) Scott Fitzgerald in that press release? Sure sounds like his weird melange of whiny faux-victimization and imperial hauteur to me.

  27. I feel deeply for your situation, being both an academic and a disillusioned idealist. I would love to believe that your straightforward dissection of why the Republican Party’s tactics are as bad for them as for you would reach your assailants — they have a strategy, so presumably they have strategists, who ostensibly have a vested interest in considering the cost-benefit of anything they might do. Unfortunately, the nature of modern political rhetoric in America means you made yourself a Them from word one; a Them they are not allowed to listen to or find common ground with under any circumstances, even as you advise them not to shoot themselves in the foot.

    It’s ugly and petty and dishonest and shameful, and it’s been tolerated and allowed to thrive longer than it should have by virtue of learned helplessness. The meme of “that’s just how politics are” is an insidious one, and I’m happy to see someone of maturity, compassion, and intellectual clout standing publicly against the inevitability of hardball.

  28. Professor Cronon —

    This GOP behavior is a complete travesty. It’s alarming, and sad, to see how afraid they are of an honest institutional history of their own party. Rather than dispute anything you’ve said or offer an alternate account, they want to go after you personally, under the pretext that you’re a public official?

    If they had real ideas, they’d come back at you with real ideas.

    Stay strong. You certainly have the support of this one, very uninfluential academic at a state university, who greatly admires your work.

  29. Hooray for Dr. Cronan. They can try to vilify education and the truth- but in the end it never works.

  30. I’m sorry the fight has come to your front door. I never took a class from you but have long respected your work. Thank you for standing strong and speaking for so many.

  31. Fair-mindedness from Republicans is a dream we all have.

    Like winning the lottery, it isn’t going to happen. But is fun to dream.

  32. ““I have never seen such a concerted effort to intimidate someone from lawfully seeking information about their government… Taxpayers have a right to accountable government and a right to know if public officials are conducting themselves in an ethical manner.”

    They are aware that “employee at a public institution” and “public official” aren’t the same thing right? That being a university professor doesn’t grant you power in the legislative process, nor does it actually make you part of a governing body? Because they seem to believe that subjecting a private citizen to a FOIA request regarding his personal e-mail account is the same thing as subjecting a state senator to a FOIA request regarding the content of a piece of legislation.

    Your McCarthy analogy is spot on, and it’s clear that this entire thing is meant as a smear campaign against someone who happened mention one of the Republican party’s dirty little secrets. They’re clearly very alarmed by the fact that you told people about APEC, which raises questions about their own issues with transparency. Since Republicans like to sell themselves as the Christian party so much, perhaps the best rebuttal of their outrage that you might post a polite response to their FOIA request outlining the perfectly reasonable legal and ethical issues that prevent you from complying should be “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” In other words, it strikes me as rather disingenuous that they are so upset at your refusal to comply with a transparency request when the whole issue was sparked because you pointed out that they might not be operating with full transparency themselves.

  33. Prof. Cronon,

    As you say, the lack of fair-mindedness in this statement is astounding. There really isn’t a sincere word in it. To even engage it as anything other than a hateful, concentrated smear is to lend it credibility, which I suppose is why brazen black-is-white lying has been such a successful political tactic for this version of Republican politics.

  34. These guys at ALEC want to wield the power that government holds while ignoring that ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our government holds power because it is ours, and WE GAVE IT TO THEM, we chose to tax ourselves to fund them, to act on our own behalf more wisely, efficiently, fairly, and broadly than we can do as individuals.

    Instead of letting the Luntzian framing constantly pit “free-enterprise” against “government”, let’s talk about community-funded vs. privately funded.

    Both have distinct areas of excellence and moral hazard. A stable society needs both. A smart society limits the damage each can do.

    Currently, we limit privately-funded excesses through laws, regulation and boycotts. We limit community-funded excesses through sunset provisions and democracy. If these levers are too slow and ham-handed it’s likely that we could invent more effective, modern controls.

    When privately funded institutions attempt to control all the community-funded institutions and assets–as we are seeing now–we know exactly what they aim to do. Strip all the assets for short-term gain and abandon the results for the commons to deal with.

    Well let me remind you that those were assets WE funded. Community-funded universities. Community-funded K-12 education. Community-funded law enforcement, infrastructure and fire prevention. We fund institutions when we don’t want an outsider to pull profits out of our communities simply for doing things we all need done. These incredibly valuable assets belong to us. If we don’t fight to protect them, someone will figure out how to steal them. Just as they figured out how to steal the pensions of Wisconsin workers (the industrial workers over the past two decades, and the community workers starting this year).

    If you want a nightmare scenario, imagine we don’t hold the line today to protect our community-funded institutional assets. Imagine K-12 education run like a big-box store (School*Mart). Imagine privately funded law enforcement. If the prospect of police with a profit motive doesn’t stop you in your tracks, you’ve never known anyone who was marginalized.

    Along with all the people praising you, Professor, I do as well. Thank you for bringing this to light. Thank you for your courage. It’s going to get nastier. Steel yourself.

  35. Did their press release contain a link to your blogpost, to help its readers assess credibility?

    1. They’re not saying that the Cronon *blogpost* was intimidating; what they view as intimidating is the groundswell of agreement from the rest of us, that what they’re doing to you is abuse of the FOIA process.

      1. Framing: Groundswell of support against abuse, vs. Concerted effort at intimidation

        Interpretation: They were expecting a gross power imbalance in their favor; and are displeased that it’s turned out otherwise.

        1. …though the power imbalance issues are a red herring that distracts from what’s relevant.

  36. Congratulations, Prof. Cronon. Most bloggers have to slave away for years to achieve enough profile and relevance to become a target for GOP vituperation. That you have succeeded so magnificently (and so quickly) speaks well for the value of your efforts. I have bookmarked your blog, and look forward to enjoying your future posts.

  37. Dear Professor Cronon:

    I want to thank you for you wonderful OpEd article, and more importantly, for dropping the veil on ALEC to the public. That is precisely why you have been targeted by the RPW. You have exposed the interconnected web of corporate, think tank, and politician sponsors of ALEC, WPRI, the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth, the Koch Bros., etc. This group has been dropping legislation at the Capitol door to foster the corporate agenda by the truckload. These people seek to re-write the social contract with the citizens of this country that has grown to be since WWII. Now that the Soviet Union has been defeated, the corporate elite can turn their hands to reining in the little people. It is not a coincidence that WPRI led the charge against the WRS beginning in March, 2010. This is an agenda, have no doubt. You have been brave; you have spoken for many who do not have the options that you may have because of your excellent credentials. The RPW seeks to chill dissent, and their attack on you does just that. Please continue to speak to truth. Your father was a professor of mine; he would be so proud. You wear the name with distinction, and will long be remembered for your service in this confrontation. Numen Lumen!

  38. Dear Professor Cronon, As an English Literature PhD Candidate at Kent State University, I send you my support. I heard about your situation today on the Daily Kos, and I have blogged about it on my website (which has automatically sent out links to my Twitter and Facebook accounts). I know that my friends here are concerned about many challenges to intellectual work–research and teaching–but this is another tactic that we may have to contend with in the future. All my best, Jason

  39. 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:

    “Deplorable”… why? Because he critiqued their request, pointed out the base smear job it was meant to enable, and didn’t give in?

    The Republican Party these days may hate government, but they certainly do like exercising their lordly privilege. It’s the same principle behind their desire to punish the Democrats for denying them a quorum. The GOP today is the worst of both worlds: naive neoliberalism in economic affairs and aristocratic in the nth degree in terms of their attitude toward the “peons” who vote for them.

  40. I just read your Times op-ed. I have only one disagreement: the use of the word “conservative.”

    What are these people “conserving”? It is certainly not the US Constitution. Nor, if your column is to be believed, are they conserving the laws and traditions of your state.

    If the US had ever been a monarchy, they could be conserving the divine right of kings. But, of course, that is not the case.

    Please, Professor, stop calling these people conservatives.

  41. Until the offending Republicans can be recalled mid-term, or we have to wait to vote them out in the next elections, Wisconsinites will have to put up with one of the shadiest, most unresponsive governments in our state’s history. But look at it this way: if W couldn’t break the US, Walker can’t break Wisconsin. Keep up the good work, professor.

  42. Although we have never met, I also work on (non-US) environmental history, I’ve been at ASEH, and we have many mutual friends (mostly doctoral students of yours from years past). So, knowing your work and the care put into it as well as the sterling reputation you enjoy among “our ilk” as a person, I find it really appalling how these folks are acting. But then again, they are playing a different game than you or I. Our “game,” which is really a misnomer, is research and understanding. Theirs is obfuscation and the creation of appearances–smoke and mirrors, in short, intended to prevent understanding. They see you as an object potentially of use, a red herring of sorts, and they have no concern for who you actually are or whether their charges make any sense. The WI GOP has a very broad and deep strand of anti-intellectualism to tap into, and by playing the victim (!!!) in this situation, they become the populists standing against the ivory tower.

    On a day when I am immensely proud of my Canadian brethren (well, cousins, anyway), this has really brought me down. It’s also an object lesson never to talk politics with current students at any time or to use University email to comment on political matters (thus why I’m using my gmail here). Sigh. So much for the free exchange of ideas.

    In any case your colleagues in the field and around the country are watching. This is a world beyond the Ward Churchill witch-hunt and it’s disturbing to say the least, but you will find no shortage of support.

  43. Professor Cronon:
    This brou-ha-ha has been most interesting, although, I’m sure, you’d pass if you could. (I hope this assault doesn’t cost you attorney’s fees, which I’m sure they’d love to see you have to expend out of your hard-earned salary, since according to them, your exorbitant salary for having one of them not-real gov’t jobs.)
    It mystifies me how they can hit you with the Open Records Act. Nowhere in this portion of your blog address do I find “” What I see is: “” Big difference. If this is your personal website at your residence, unrelated to university computers, as a former law librarian, I would question whether your position at the University applies to personal activities on your own personal computer.
    Last night, I spent an hilarious 2 hours enjoying the movie “The People vs. Larry Flynt”. (I enjoy legal dramas.) Today, as I read your blog posts (thank you, Greg Sergent at the Washington Post), I wonder whatever happened to freedom of speech?
    My husband is a high-school teacher. He has an e-mail address on the school server; it’s there for other teachers, administration and parents to contact him. He has a completely personal, separate e-mail address at home, server on Maw Bell, on which he contacts his Texas Air Nat’l Guard buddies and personal friends.
    And, on which he is free to express his personal opinions, political and otherwise, on such issues as the current attempt by Governor “Good Hair” and our state legislature to raid the Teacher Retirement Fund.
    His opinions are his own and, it seems to me, not available to the Open Records Act. So, I am here in Texas hoping and praying you are on safe ground. And, I hope, if you do find yourself in a complex situation, there is some organization that defends free speech that comes to your defense. If they do, let us know who they are, so we can contribute to help your cause. We’re not wealthy (otherwise, my husband would not be teaching), but we will help as we can.
    Hang in there and chin up and all those other cliches.
    Your cause is just.

    1. Freedom of speech, sadly, only applies to when it’s convenient for the Republicans to hide behind. Fox News is allowed to constantly spout blatant lies in the form of “innocent mistakes”, but if someone posts a blog post about ALEC, not even making a political statement about it, but just mentioning it exists, they come down on them with all the power they can wield. Truth, apparently, is the enemy of the Republican party.

      I highly recommend to readers of this blog to read this online book:
      It is about Authoritarians and the various tactics they use in order to convince people to work against their own interests and willingly hand power over to an elite few. Much of the Republican party’s recent behaviour has a very strong streak of Authoritarianism, such as their attacks on competing power structures like the unions, and their complete disregard for the law when it comes to passing their own legislation, while simultaneously wielding the law like a cudgel against their enemies.

  44. Thank you for your reasoned and articulate op-ed and response to the unfolding events. The integrity of your approach, in itself, illuminates the depths that the republican party has fallen to. I have never been more proud to be a University of Wisconsin student!

  45. 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.

  46. 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,

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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?

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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…

  51. Professor,

    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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

  52. 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?

  53. 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.

  54. 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.”

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

  55. 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

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

    1. Hi.

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

      1. 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.

  63. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

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

    1. 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.

      1. Plastic,
        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.

      2. 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.

    2. 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.

  65. 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

    1. 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.)

  66. 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.

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

    1. 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….

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

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