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Republicans, likely upset that they do not have public support in their union busting measures, are now targeting public employees that speak out against their overreach. Freedom of speech is dead and buried in America.
The first instance of intimidation came in Wisconsin where a Republican group has filed a Freedom of Information Act seeking a professor’s emails. William Cronon, Professor of History, Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, spoke out against Governor Walker’s campaign against collective bargaining in a New York Times op-ed earlier in the month. Two days after his post was published, Stephan Thompson of the Wisconsin Republican Party filed an open records request for the professor’s personal e-mails — including any memorandum that contains the words “Republican,” “Scott Walker” and “union,” among others. Although Cronon is a public employee and his email are subject to such an inquiry, the information the GOP is looking for would be part of Cronon’s personal emails and not related to his job.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin released a statement in response to the controversy, saying that the university would comply with the open records request as required by law. She continued, however: “Compliance with public records requests involves a balancing test. There are many cases in which the university must balance the need, for instance, to protect proprietary research against the public’s right to know. In this instance, we will need to consider whether disclosure would result in a chilling effect on the discourse between colleagues that is essential to our academic mission.”
Michigan is now, even more broadly, using the open record request to investigate those damn liberal commie professors in their state university system. A conservative think tank in Michigan, the Mackinac Center, submitted a FOIA request seeking any emails from labor professors at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michigan State University. The center demanded any email that includes the words “Scott Walker,” “Wisconsin,” “Madison,” and “Maddow.” The Mackinac Center is funded by many prominent conservative foundations, such as those of the Koch brothers, the Waltons, and the parents of Blackwater chief Erik Prince.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, presumably who the Center is after, was perplexed on how she became synonymous with the Wisconsin protests. “This show was the first national news outlet to report in detail on that policy, and now, the Mackinack Center is demanding the emails of anybody who could be an expert on that subject who might have the temerity to type the word ‘Maddow’ in any context in an email,” Maddow said on her Wednesday night show. “How’s that leave me alone personal liberty thing working out for you?”
The Republicans who campaigned fiercely on small government continue to pass laws that are not small government at all. For instance, going through university professors emails—that really doesn’t strike me as small government at all. Try again. William Cronon writes on his blog that the “open records request seems designed to give him (Mr. Thompson of the state GOP) what he hopes will be ammunition he can use to embarrass, undermine, and ultimately silence me.” This is big government oppression at its worst.