EDITORIAL: Government is ours, not theirs

WISCONSIN STATE SEN. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, should be ashamed.

And she should pay up, not expect taxpayers to do it for her.

Vukmir is the legislator who came up with the stunning and execrable claim that she could not be held accountable in court for failing to comply with an open records request filed in accord with state law. She said legislators were immune to civil proceedings while in session. And since sessions technically are year-round and never end, under Vukmir’s argument no legislator could be compelled to abide by the records law as long as they are in office.

BESIDES, SHE ARGUED, she already had turned over nine documents and that’s all she had.

So add dishonesty to her list of attributes in this matter.

Now, in the settlement of the case, Vukmir says there indeed were other documents on her private e-mail account and she will hand them over.

She missed the documents, she says, because there were problems locating them during a Yahoo search.

Uh-huh. That would be a lot more believable if Vukmir hadn’t tried to fight off the records request with the most ridiculous anti-transparency claim we’ve heard in years.

TWO FACTORS particularly rankle as this matter comes to a close.

First, Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen forever tarnished his reputation by trying to support Vukmir’s immunity claim in court. The state’s highest law enforcement officer is supposed to make sure laws are followed, not conspire with politicians trying to dodge statutory obligations.

Second, the settlement calls for Vukmir to pay $12,500 in plaintiff’s court costs and $2,500 in damages. But she won’t. The costs are being passed on to taxpayers instead, adding insult to injury.

Not only did Vukmir thumb her nose at the openness law — which exists in the public interest to allow citizens to hold officials accountable — she then sticks the people with the tab for her misdeeds.

SOME WILL TRY to spin this episode in partisan terms, but that’s the wrong way to look at it. Vukmir is the third-ranking officer for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s board, an organization that drafts model legislation for conservative lawmakers across the country. The records request sought documents pertaining to Vukmir’s work with ALEC and was filed by the liberal Center for Media and Democracy.

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