A coalition of five organizations, including four prominent conservative organizations, have filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit by The Progressive over an open records case involving state Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa).
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, the Badger Institute, and Americans for Prosperity – Wisconsin announced Friday they filed their brief supporting Bill Lueders, Managing Editor of The Progressive. The lawsuit is the result of Krug’s refusal to supply the public records in the original electronic format as Lueders requested. Instead, Krug printed the records and attempted to charge The Progressive for the cost of the copies, increasing the expense of the open records request.
A court ruled in January that Krug had to supply the records in their original electronic format, and Krug appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals.
The Krug case is similar to a another open records case involving Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee), when he refused to provide electronic copies of emails to WILL. Brostoff instead printed them out and demanded over $3,000 in payment for the records. Brostoff settled that lawsuit by agreeing to turn over the records as they were originally requested and paying WILL’s attorney fees.
“I hope the Court of Appeals adopts a plain meaning interpretation of the statute that serves the interest of open government and the efficient use of public resources,” said Tom Kamenick, Deputy Counsel and open government expert at WILL. “It defies common sense – and the law – for the legislature to waste taxpayer resources by printing out electronic records that could cheaply and quickly be provided via email, file sharing website, or CD.”
The state legislature’s commitment to open records has been questioned by both conservatives and liberals in Wisconsin. In 2015, Republican leaders attempted to push through a drastic curtailment of what constitutes a public record at the last minute in the budget process. Conservative and liberal organizations quickly publicized the attempted gutting of the law and defeated the effort.