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The big chill? UWs Cronon sees intimidation in GOP records request

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highplainsdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:31 AM
Original message
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 09:35 AM by highplainsdem
Source: Capital Times (

The big chill? UWs Cronon sees intimidation in GOP records request
TODD FINKELMEYER | The Capital Times
Thursday, April 7, 2011 5:00 am


In the span of 10 days last month, Cronon started a blog, penned an op-ed for the New York Times and let the world know his emails were the target of an open records request from the Republican Party of Wisconsin, a move roundly criticized as an attempt to intimidate a professor for offering his perspective on political issues. Media outlets from across the country followed the story, with commentators, bloggers and readers debating everything from academic freedom to political pettiness.


Perhaps surprisingly, this academic heavyweight appears truly shaken by the developments. During an hour-long discussion at his home near campus, Cronon chooses his words carefully occasionally choking up with emotion while examining the events that have rattled his world. Hes trying to understand the response his recent writings have elicited and is deeply concerned about the chilling effect the open records request could have on academic freedom. Hes also wondering if it might be time to step away from a state and an institution that is dear to him.

I think seriously about whether I can stay at this university, says Cronon, 56, who spent most of his childhood in Madison and returned to town in 1992 after a decade as a faculty member at Yale University. Im not exaggerating. I really never had to worry about information requests or which email to use at a private university. I hate that Im saying this, but thats how I feel.

The president-elect of the American Historical Association stresses he believes that open records requests are a foundation of our democracy, but he views the one targeted at his email account as a blatant case of intellectual intimidation.


Read more:

I hope that open-records request won't drive Cronon away from the university.

I'll have more to say about this article later, but I do want to note in the OP that Ohio professor Richard Vedder, one of the academics quoted in the article as among those who "shrugged their shoulders at the tactic and questioned if it would truly dampen scholarly inquiry," has long been a favorite academic of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and was awarded their Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award in 2008:

So he's the last academic you'd expect to hear suggesting there was anything wrong with the WI GOP prying into Cronon's emails two days after Cronon blogged about ALEC. The reporter seems unaware of Vedder's association with ALEC.
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highplainsdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:23 PM
Response to Original message
1. Video of Richard Vedder, professor who was dismissive of the open records request, thanking ALEC
for the award he was given in 2008:

Vedder said (at the start of the video) that the award was certainly one of the highlights of his professional life, and he called ALEC a "wonderful organization."
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nykym Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 04:14 PM
Response to Original message
2. Why can't someone
file an FOIA request on ALEC? What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
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highplainsdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 04:27 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. The federal FOIA, like the Wisconsin open-records law, applies just to governent-controlled
documents. ALEC is a private nonprofit, a 501(c)3, and nonprofits are exempt from these sunshine laws. Usually they are, anyway. I just googled this and apparently some aren't exempt from state sunshine laws if they receive governmental funding. But ALEC doesn't receive such funding, so there's no way to file an open-records or FOIA request.
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