Saturday, March 26, 2011

Republican Party of Wisconsin Attack on William Cronon

Mark Jefferson

By now, everyone has heard about the Open Records request served on the UW-Madison by the Wisconsin Republican Party seeking all university emails of Professor William Cronon that reference any of the GOP8, the Governor and innumerable other parties. The controversy has even made it onto the New York Times editorial page.  Professor Cronon's crime in the eyes of the GOP?  He published a scholarly piece suggesting that the GOP legislatures in statehouses around the country were pushing legislation being developed by a central source, a conservative thnk tank known as The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.  One of Professor Cronon's theories is that ALEC is coordinating efforts nationally to pass a number of laws in the guise of fiscal restraint that have little or nothing to do with fiscal problems. Ring any bells?

I've posted about Professor Willam Cronon and his new blog, Scholar as Citizen, a couple of times already, here and here.   I've done so because the blog is so well thought-out and written.  Professor Cronon is the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography and Environmental Studies at UW Madison. He was elected in November to be the President of the American Historical Association, the first environmental historian to be elected as president of the association. 

The best place to see the background for the Republican effort at intimidating Professor Cronon is a lengthy but interesting blog post he put up going through the recent events step-by-step. 

Anyway, everybody and their sisters have criticized the state Republicans for trying to intimidate the good Professor, and the Republicans, in their inimitable fashion, have suddenly become the "victims" of this whole situation.  Here is a press release by Mark Jefferson, the Executive Director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin yesterday:
For Immediate Release
Contact: Katie McCallum, Communications Director (608) 257-4765
March 25, 2011

In response to Professor William Cronin’s deplorable tactics in seeking to force the Republican Party of Wisconsin to withdraw a routine open records request, Executive Director Mark Jefferson released the following statement:

“Like anyone else who makes an open records request in Wisconsin, the Republican Party of Wisconsin does not have to give a reason for doing so.

“I have never seen such a concerted effort to intimidate someone from lawfully seeking information about their government.

“Further, it is chilling to see that so many members of the media would take up the cause of a professor who seeks to quash a lawful open records request.  Taxpayers have a right to accountable government and a right to know if public officials are conducting themselves in an ethical manner.  The Left is far more aggressive in this state than the Right in its use of open records requests, yet these rights do extend beyond the liberal left and members of the media.

“Finally, I find it appalling that Professor Cronin seems to have plenty of time to round up reporters from around the nation to push the Republican Party of Wisconsin into explaining its motives behind a lawful open records request, but has apparently not found time to provide any of the requested information.

“We look forward to the University’s prompt response to our request and hope those who seek to intimidate us from making such requests will reconsider their actions.”
There is no explanation for what Professor Cronon's "deplorable tactics" are, which is I suppose a modest credit to Mr. Jefferson, as he would just be making stuff up. 

I gather from his latest post at Scholar as Citizen that Professor Cronon has not been particularly intimidated.  The Republican Party trying to go up against Professor Cronon and the uniform support for him in the state and national media has really been akin to a puppy going up against a Mack truck.  In fact, Professor Cronon, a fledgling blogger, undoubtedly working to build up readership, reported that since the open record request and the resulting publicity over it, his blog has had over a two million hits.  Way to go GOP!  Way to marginalize your opponents! 


  1. The Republican Party of Wisconsin is trying to prove that Cronon used his work computer and email account in violation of a UW policy that states, "University employees may not use these resources to support the nomination of any person for political office or to influence a vote in any election or referendum." At least this what they claim they are doing. --Jim G.

  2. Jim G ... I don't see that Professor Cronon was "supporting the nomination of any person for political office" given that those he was writing/blogging about (indirectly) have already been elected to office. Nor was he attempting to "influence a vote in any election or referendum", considering that his blog article was written/posted after the legislature had already voted (and again, the bill wasn't a 'vote' that 'we the people' were able to vote on).

    I guess that I'm uncertain as to what point you are trying to make (or if it was just a statement on your part). My understanding is that the Republican Party of Wisconsin did not provide a reason for their FOIA request, but if what you have stated is their rationale, they've got nothing to go on.

  3. It was just a statement on my part. I am not endorsing what the RPW is doing. Their reasoning has been reported in the press. I'm guessing the RPW is trying to show that Cronon is/was supporting candidates or influencing elections with respect to the impending recalls.--Jim G.