Exactly one month ago, I wrote about a lawsuit filed against five Republican lawmakers here in Wisconsinby the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause (CC). In their lawsuit, the Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause alleged the five Republican lawmakers in question failed to provide ALEC-related records sought under Wisconsin’s Open Records Law. At the time, the five Republicans in question – State Representatives Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), Tom Larson (R-Colfax), and Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) – denied the existance of any ALEC-related records held on their private email accounts in an attempt to avoid open records laws.
On Tuesday the Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause announced a settlement to their lawsuit against the five Republican lawmakers, with those lawmakers agreeing to turn over email records relating to ALEC that they held on their private email accounts in an attempt to skirt open records laws.
“As part of the settlement agreement, the five legislators admitted that ALEC-related records were held on their personal email accounts and are covered by the Open Records Law,” said Center for Media and Democracy Staff Counsel Brendan Fischer, who filed the complaint. “They are finally complying with the law and agreeing to release those records to the public.”
The five legislators — Representatives Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), Tom Larson (R-Colfax), and Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) — also acknowledged they have a duty as elected officials to fully comply with records requests from the public. They will pay $2,520 in court costs and attorney’s fees involved in bringing the lawsuit.
The settlement of the suit brought against the five Republican lawmakers is certainly a victory for anyone who values open, transparent government, but I hope it’s just the first of many attempts to open our halls of government and shine some much-needed light on what Republican lawmakers have been up to in Madison and why they’ve been trying so hard to hide what they’re up to.