WASHINGTON -- Union officials in Wisconsin are accusing Gov. Scott Walker of selectively leaking emails in an effort to come off as more compromising than he has been in the debate over his sharply contested budget bill.
On Tuesday, the governor’s office made public several exchanges it had with AWOL Senate Democrats seeking to find a bit of common ground in an anti-collective bargaining measure included in the budget proposal.
The exchanges presented Walker in a far more moderate light than recent press coverage -- which had focused largely on his refusal to even sit at the bargaining table with union leaders. It also revealed, for the first time, the contours of a possible resolution to the current stand off: one that would no longer restrict bargaining rights to rates of inflation, or prevent unions from bargaining over mandatory overtime, performance bonuses, or hazardous duty pay.
Labor leaders weren’t impressed, either with the legislative compromise or the new, softer version of Walker.
“Scott Walker is literally being sued by multiple Wisconsin media outlets for failing to release emails related to the budget repair bill, yet he’s willing to selectively leak emails he believes create the illusion he’s willing to make concessions,” said Rick Badger, Executive Director of a local AFSCME affiliate. “If Scott Walker really wants to negotiate, he should name a time and place and sit down with Democratic Senators. This deal is not going to be struck through stunts involving leaked emails and press conferences.”
A request for comment from Walker’s office was not immediately returned but the notion that both he and his aides would put out information that suited their short-term political interests is neither shocking nor novel. It was telling, after all, that Walker’s office sent around those same emails to other news outlets (some of whom, presumably, didn’t make the request) shortly after releasing them to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Several days ago, the governor’s legal counsel was demanding more than $30,000 in printing fees from the Associated Press for its email requests. The AP along with two local news organizations responded to that demand by suing the governor for violating the Wisconsin Open Records law. The Journal Sentinel, meanwhile, said it was satisfied with the records they were granted on Tuesday evening, confident that the governor had not left out anything by design.
“We put in the requests and they answered it by releasing the emails. We have no reason to believe at this point that they held anything back on that request,” George Stanley, an editor at the paper, told The Huffington Post. “We aggressively pursue our open records requests, using legal action as necessary when we believe the state open records law is being violated, taking cases all the way to the State Supreme Court if we have to. Of course, that process takes years and we’d prefer not to go that route. There are limits of what we can do under the law to force any public unit of government to respond as quickly as we would like them to each request, but we do our best to encourage them to comply.”
UPDATE: Walker split his controversial budget into two items on Wednesday night, allowing the senate to pass legislation that would strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers. More here.