Scott Walker and Mitt Romney: The dog ate their homework | WisCommunity

Scott Walker and Mitt Romney: The dog ate their homework

[img_assist|nid=55501|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=110|height=153]What is this penchant for secrecy that Republicans have? And their highly visible floutings of open records laws, which never seem to produce any legal retribution? 

First, it was Scott Walker. Now, it's Mitt Romney.

Let's visit the Romney issue first. Before seeking the GOP presidential nomination, Romney was governor of Massachusetts. It is now clear that, as puts it:

At the end of Romney's term as governor, Romney's staffers destroyed emails, sold publicly-owned hard drives to staffers, and made sure no digital tracks were left behind. This action flies in the face of public records laws in Massachusetts, which require that electronic records be preserved for state archives. 

And what's truly egregious is that it's Romney himself who's now revealing this. Why did it happen? From

Romney and his campaign have so far denied this, with the candidate saying this weekend in New Hampshire that his staff took the highly unusual step of purchasing their work hard drives because they might contain “” information. Meanwhile, he’s made calls for greater White House transparency .But in a fairly stunning admission today during with the editorial board of the Nashua Telegraph in New Hampshire,Romney suggested that his administration deleted emails because they didn’t want “opposition research teams” to have access to them... .

This is all more than reminiscent of the dust-up in Milwaukee County government, which involves the current resident of the Wisconsin governor's office. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explained back in January:

The thorough housecleaning of the Milwaukee County executive's office when Gov. Scott Walker left late last month has left his successors wondering whether any records are missing.

Tom Nardelli, who was Walker's chief of staff at the county, said all records were saved or disposed of properly. But without knowing what records were destroyed, it's hard to know whether anything required by law to be kept was tossed, said Harold Mester, an aide to Acting County Executive Lee Holloway and the County Board... .

A tour this week of the sparsely staffed offices revealed banks of empty file drawers, save a set of various bureaucratic forms, county budget books and one stack of papers on various issues left in the office of Fran McLaughlin, who was Walker's county spokeswoman.

The empty drawers, coupled with the absence of any message or memo telling the whereabouts of Walker's office documents - and at least two bins of shredded paper left by Walker staffers - were perplexing, Mester said.

"There was nothing left," Mester said. "There was no communication from the previous administration as far as where anything was."

That makes responding to public record requests or questions about ongoing issues more difficult, he said. The 16 boxes of records were tracked down through the county information management department and returned to the county executive's office.

Luckily, in Walker's case, backups of all computer-based digital files were kept by the county. The county's corporation counsel's office said requirements for record retention vary, and that observing the records laws requires elected officials to ensure a system of accessing records that must be saved.

But you don't have to reach back into Walker's tenure as county exec to see how transparency and openness in state government is in peril under his watch. The state's new compensation plan (I call it the de-compensation plan, because it further whacks state employee benefits and effectively their salaries, too) turns a lot of decision-making on overtime, bonuses, merit pay and more over to faceless bureaucrats controlled by Walker himself.

And some of the Walker administration's rule-making -- power that the authoritarian-minded, GOP-led legislature has ceded to him -- ensures that not all of these compensation decisions will show up in employee salary and other state databases that newspapers and the public can consult. Meaning: Transparency and openness are harmed, because some of the data will now be divided up, fuzzed up and hidden from view. Just like the conniver-in-chief's own, past office records.

Indeed, just what is it with these Republicans and their penchant for openly flouting open government?


November 22, 2011 - 10:42am