Wisconsin GOP Investigates Illegal Political Activity, Makes the Left Angry

If there is a key difference between conservatives and liberals it is their view on the rule of law. Speaking in broad termsliberals believe that a person is not accountable for their actions if their cause is just or if they have the “right” background or the “right” politics. So not a peep is heard about the clown car that is the Ninth Circus but the left goes crazy about the benign appearances of Justices Scalia and Alito. Cass Sustein and Goodwin Liu can hold legal opionions that not only put them outside the mainstream of American jurisprudence but also on the fringe of American society and no one says boo. John Yoo, on the other hand, was excoriated for writing an opinion attempting to define “torture.” Union thugs, the New Black Panther Party, and anti-globalization crazies should not be prosecuted. Tea parties, on the other hand, are dog whistle calls for anti-government violence and should be suppressed.


Probably no where is this attitude more on display than in academia. Case in point is the case of University of Wisconsin professor William Cronon, recently elected president of the American Historical Association and Democrat party hack.

Cronon blogs at Scholar and Citizen, a rather pompous exercise in self-promotion, and decided to interject himself into the ongoing budget debate — guess on which side — with this post: Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here) in which he offers helpful hints like: Basic Tools for Researching Conservative Groups and undergoes a rapid descent into lunacy in which he identifies the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as the driving force behind American conservatism. As an aside, other than a belief that the rules don’t apply to them the left also holds dear the belief that any force that opposes them is the function of a conspiracy. Hence the frothing over the Koch family.

Unfortunately for Professor Cronon he works in Wisconsin, a state with a fairly “progressive” open records law.The Wisconsin GOP issued a records request:

From: Stephan Thompson
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2011 2:37 PM
To: Dowling, John
Subject: Open Records Request
Dear Mr. Dowling,

Under Wisconsin open records law, we are requesting copies of the following items:

Copies of all emails into and out of Prof. William Cronon’s state email account from January 1, 2011 to present which reference any of the following terms: Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell.

We are making this request under Chapter 19.32 of the Wisconsin state statutes, through the Open Records law. Specifically, we would like to cite the following section of Wis. Stat. 19.32 (2) that defines a public record as “anything recorded or preserved that has been created or is being kept by the agency. This includes tapes, films, charts, photographs, computer printouts, etc.”

Thank you for your prompt attention, and please make us aware of any costs in advance of preparation of this request.


Stephan Thompson

Republican Party of Wisconsin


Now this is pretty cut an dried. Cronon is a state employee and the email he has sent via his university-provided email account is covered by the law.

Now Cronon, naturally, is crying and not only is he crying, he is crying foul. His argument, here, is essentially that it doesn’t matter whether he broke the law, his cause was just (exposing the ravening right wing conspiracy represented by ALEC) and the Republicans are just being big poopyheads by using the law to force disclosure of his emails. It makes no difference that he has falsely claimed that the GOP is part of some conspiracy on the scale of the Bilderbergers, all that is important is his personal ability to libel and avoid consequences.

Now this would be a stupid argument under the best of circumstances (e.g., sorry, officer, you can’t give me a speeding ticket even though I was speeding because you are not out here trying to enforce the laws you are out here writing tickets so you can get a promotion) but what makes it worse is that the University of Wisconsin system warns employees about the engaging in activities that are partisan:

There are other “political” activities that might not fall within the scope of political campaign activities as discussed in this guidance. For example, advocating for governmental action or legislative change, at a local, state or federal level, may be political although not related to a political campaign. While this guidance does not cover those activities in detail, because of restrictions on state lobbying and personal use of state resources, individual employees should not use state work time or state resources to engage in political activities unless expressly designated with this responsibility on behalf of the institution.


Far from being a hero, at best Cronon is a charlatan for flogging a ridiculous story to his credulous readers, a story so bizarre that it calls into question his fitness for academic life. At worst he has used state resources to retail this theory — and heaven knows what else — and is mewling about his academic freedom being “chilled” because of a record request.



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