Monday, July 2, 2018

Happy Anniversary to the time that WisGOP tried to wreck Open Records

3 years ago today, a horrid event in our state’s history happened, one that seems to have been forgotten by far too many. It was when the Wisconsin GOP tried to gut the state’s Open Records Law as part of the biennial budget bill, in a wrap-up motion that was jammed through the state’s Joint Finance Committee without hearings or any other previous notice.

Let’s go back to the Center for Media and Democracy’s rundown of that sickening proposal, and what it would have done.

1) Create a new "deliberative materials" exemption

The amendments would exempt all "deliberative materials" from disclosure under the public records law, protecting anything that might have informed a policy decision.

2) Allow legislators to hide the identity of any person who communicates about the development of policy

3) Hide the "drafting files" showing how legislation is developed

4) Allow the legislature to override the Public Records Law via legislative rule

The proposal also gives the legislature the ability to exempt any additional records from disclosure merely by adopting a new rule by majority vote, without having to go through the legislative process.
For the one (and maybe only) time during the 7 ½ year Age of Fitzwalkerstan, our news media dropped its “both sides” method of reporting and called out the GOP for the fascist move that this was. Likely because it was the media themselves that were the targets of this disgusting act.

The people of the state understood it too, and the blowback was so quick and fierce that it was immediately dropped from budget considerations before the bill hit the floor of either house of the Legislature. Later, we found out that the offices of Governor Scott Walker, Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos and Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald all had parts in molding the proposed changes to the Open Records Law….using emails obtained under the Open Records Law.

However, the heat of the 2016 presidential election soon followed, and it allowed much of this fiasco to fall down the memory hole for many Wisconsinites. Flash ahead to today, and let’s see what happened to the 12 Joint Finance Republicans who UNANIMOUSLY voted to try to wreck the Open Records Law 3 years ago.

The answer - 10 of the 12 are still in office today, and some are trying to get electoral promotions this Fall.

Senator Alberta Darling (Still Co-Chair)

Representative John Nygren (Still Co-Chair)

Representative Dale Kooyenga (trying to get promoted to State Senate in November)

Senator Luther Olsen

Senator Sheila Harsdorf (now Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture)

Senator Leah Vukmir (trying to get promoted to US Senate in November)

Senator Tom Tiffany

Senator Howard Marklein

Representative Amy Loudenbeck

Representative Dean Knudson (Now chairs the Wisconsin Elections Commission)

Representative Michael Schraa

Representative Mary Czaja (now Mary Felzkowski)

Amazingly, NONE of the 12 Republicans have ever paid an electoral price for their roles in their attempts to strangle the public’s right to know. And 10 of the 12 current Republican legislators mentioned are up for election this Fall in some form.

And make no mistake, if the voters of this state are foolish enough to keep the GOP in power in both the Legislature and in the Governor’s Office, they will make a similar effort to hide even more information and accountability from the public. Much like how Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are trying to obstruct and cover up information relating to the Trump-Russia investigation in Congress today.

This is who Republicans are, and what they do, but they won’t tell you that in public. Dems better step up and keep this issue of “open government, accountability and oversight” in front of the public during the next 4 months of their campaigns (if not, they are committing major malpractice).

It is well past time for Wisconsin voters to step up and “Drain the Swamp” of this scum in 4 months, no matter what Capitol they may be slithering around in.

“Repay, do not forget.” - Robert Plant

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