Two groups filed a lawsuit Monday against five Wisconsin lawmakers, saying the representatives would not disclose information from their personal emails.
Common Cause and The Center for Media and Democracy are seeking emails relating to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. That's a group of lawmakers and corporations that draft conservative legislation.
According to The Center for Media and Democracy, 47 current Wisconsin state Representatives and Senators have connections to ALEC.
UW-Madison Journalism and Mass Communication professor Robert Drechsel says government activity conducted through private emails is subject to Wisconsin’s Open Records Law requests, “When one party to that correspondence is a legislator it certainly seems to me that that constitutes government business.”
Legislators are allowed to delete emails, but cannot after an Open Records request has been made.
Drechsel says it’s complicated to tell if a lawmaker is withholding information, “There’s a certain point at which I suppose it comes down to a matter of trust. No law is going to perfectly resolve every situation that one can imagine in this regard.”
But in the end, Drechsel says, efforts to keep things secret have a way of backfiring.