Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his loyal Republican henchmen in the state legislature hatched a plan for state secrecy that was so egregious it managed to unite Republicans and Democrats against it nationwide, but it appears that Walker's office has been operating in secrecy without a legal basis for months.
Walker and the legislature recently moved toward amending the state's open record laws to more or less close the record on anything classified as "deliberative materials."
On Thursday, Republicans on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee abruptly introduced and passed new exemptions to the open records law — including a broad provision that would explicitly create an exception for "deliberative materials." Such an exception would make it impossible for the public to see how state, local and school officials made their decisions.
It also would have made a host of records from lawmakers' offices inaccessible to the public.
By Saturday, Walker and the state lawmakers who advanced the exemptions abandoned their plans after liberal and conservative voices condemned it.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, however, Walker's officer has been operating as if the open records exemptions are law for months.
Two months ago, Walker declined to release records related to his proposal to rewrite the University of Wisconsin System's mission statement and erase the Wisconsin Idea from state law. He argued he didn't have to provide those records to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and others because they were part of his office's internal deliberations. [...]
But observers have said Walker's legal claims aren't in keeping with the state's records law.
"The state's open records law creates an extremely strong presumption that documents generated by government officials are subject to disclosure," Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, wrote in a blog post for the Journal Sentinel.
It should be plainly obvious to everyone at this point that the Walker administration is ethically bankrupt if not outright criminal. Not a year has passed without someone from Walker's staff being indicted, convicted, or investigated for ethical violations or corruption and his office regularly plays fast and loose with the law.
Even a cursory glance should be enough to spot the giant, neon warning signs that tell us Walker is woefully unfit to be president or even the governor.
The Walker administration is currently being sued by The Progressive magazine and the Center for Media and Democracy for refusing to release records related to his plan to dramatically reshape the public university system.