A state appeals court says a Wisconsin lawmaker must release the names and email addresses of those who contacted him during the debate over a law limiting collective bargaining for most public sector employees.
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) redacted the information when he turned over constituent emails to the conservative John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy. The MacIver Institute has argued that people have a right to know if anyone sending an email used tax-funded time and government computers for political purposes — which is against the law.
Erpenbach, who was among the Democrats who left the state to prevent a vote on the controversial proposal from Governor Scott Walker, argued the names were concealed to protect the privacy of individuals who contacted his office. Erpenbach has cited concerns that, if their names were made public, those who emailed him during the massive protests at the Capitol building in 2011 would face retaliation.
A state appeals court on Wednesday rejected that argument, overturning a circuit court judge’s decision. The three judge panel ordered the Middleton Democrat to release the names of those who wrote 26,000 emails to his office.
In statement, Erpenbach said “I will never regret standing up for the Constitutional rights of people to contact their elected leaders. If we do not preserve the voice of individual people then we give all of the power in this state to those that can buy the best lobbyist.”
Erpenbach indicates he is still reviewing the ruling and has not decided if he will request that the state Supreme Court review the case. “The issue becomes,” Erpenbach said, “is it possible to do a cost benefit analysis on the Constitutional rights of the citizens of this state?”