Backroom Plot To Scuttle Wisconsin FOIA Falls to Disclosure, Outrage

July 15, 2015

Sometimes disclosure is all that keeps open government open. When a stealth legislative move to dismantle Wisconsin's open records law was revealed this month, a statewide uproar caused sponsors to back off.

It seemed appropriate that the old lesson "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" would be taught once again around July 4, 2015 (when much but not all of the state was distracted by cookouts, fireworks and flag displays).

An amendment was added at the last minute to Wisconsin's must-budget bill that would have exempted records about how legislation was drawn up (among other things) from disclosure.

Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee, which approved the measure on a 12-4 party-line vote late Thursday before the holiday weekend, "refused to say who initiated the measures and the reasoning for it," the local Gannett paper reported.

That prompted press coverage — including a negative editorial from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel July 3, 2015. Within days, Republicans had dropped the secrecy rider from the bill.

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