Marshall highlights a situation involving University of Wisconsin professor William Cronon who wrote a blog post at Scholar as Citizen examining the "sudden and impressively well-organized wave of legislation being introduced into state legislatures that all seem to be pursuing parallel goals only tangentially related to current fiscal challenges - ending collective bargaining rights for public employees, requiring photo IDs at the ballot box, rolling back environmental protections, privileging property rights over civil right ...."
Cronon also authored a piece for The New York Times in which he compared Gov. Walker's (pictured) efforts to push an anti-workers' rights measure through the state legislature to the infamous work of former U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy.
Professor Cronon's criticism, Marshall writes, triggered a harsh reaction from the Wisconsin Republican Party. It lodged "a state open records request to gain access to Cronon's personal emails to get a look at what communications or discussions or sources or anything else" that went into Cronon's work.
Now, 'personal' is up for some reasonable debate here. This is his university email. And he's a Professor at the University of Wisconsin, the state university. So he's a state employee. Still, he's not an elected official or someone doing public business in the sense you'd ordinarily understand the term. Nor are they looking at anything tied to the administration of the University, which is legitimately a public matter. In the ordinary sense we tend to understand the word it's his personal email. And the range of requested documents leave no doubt about what they're after.
Cronon has responded to the Republican Party's move, noting its use of the state open records request is a "perversion" of the law, Marshall noted.
In his New York Times column, Cronon said Gov. Walker's conduct, which has spurred enormous protests at the state capitol, "has provoked a level of divisiveness and bitter partisan hostility the likes of which have not been seen in this state since at least the Vietnam War. Many citizens are furious at their governor and his party, not only because of profound policy differences, but because these particular Republicans have exercised power in abusively nontransparent ways that represent such a radical break from the state's tradition of open government."
In a guest post for ACSblog, former Wis. Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager lauds state Judge Maryann Sumi for temporarily halting Gov. Walker's bill to strip collective bargaining rights from workers, saying it was a blatant violation of the state's open meetings law.