Center for Media and Democracy Wins Open Government Award

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council has awarded the "Citizen Openness Award" to the Center for Media and Democracy for its efforts to bring sunshine to government operations in 2012.

"We are honored to receive the Citizen Openness Award, and will continue working to ensure our elected officials remain transparent and responsive to the people of Wisconsin," said CMD General Counsel Brendan Fischer, who filed the lawsuit.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause filed suit in October 2012 after five Wisconsin lawmakers repeatedly refused to comply with lawful requests for their ALEC-related public records, including correspondence held in personal email accounts. CMD has been investigating the American Legislative Exchange Council since analyzing over 800 ALEC bills provided to CMD by a whistleblower and since launching the website in July 2011. (CMD has received multiple journalism awards for its investigation of ALEC and our work was featured in a Bill Moyers documentary "United States of ALEC" in September 2012). Open records requests have been one of the key ways to identify the secretive organization's influence over law and policy in Wisconsin and elsewhere since it communicates extensively with lawmakers about bills it wants introduced and passed but claims it does no lobbying and does not register or file lobbying reports.

In September 2012, however, some Wisconsin legislators attempted to evade their responsibilities by shifting their ALEC-related correspondence to personal Gmail or Yahoo accounts, and claiming they did not have to release these public records in response to a lawful request.

As part of the settlement agreement, the five legislators admitted that ALEC-related records were held on their personal email accounts and are covered by the Open Records Law. The lawsuit and settlement served as a reminder to elected officials that they cannot evade their transparency responsibilities by moving their official correspondence onto a personal e-mail account.

"It is through such battles that the records law stays strong," the Wisconsin FOIC says in their press release.

Also receiving the Citizen Openness Award is the MacIver Institute, which is currently suing a Democratic lawmaker trying to shield identifying information from thousands of emails. Other award recipients include the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Matt Johnson of the Vernon County Broadcaster.

The awards will be presented at the Wisconsin Watchdog Awards Dinner in Madison on April 24.


The author listed as "PRwatch Editors" is for reports attributable to CMD's editors or guest authors.


Congratulations on your well deserved award. Your hard work in exposing ALEC has been invaluable to me personally and to Granite State Progress. Two of us Representatives are preparing bills for next session to further expose ALEC in our state and to educate our fellow Representatives on the dangers of ALEC bills that are created and sponsored by major corporations to their advantage. Thank you for your contribution to our efforts.

...from this N.H. resident. One bit of good news: the push to reduce the forms of ID accepted for voting seems stalled for now.

This New Hampshire resident who was born and grew up in Wisconsin is doubly grateful for your relentless efforts to expose ALEC-addicted legislators and the harmful effects that their secret special interest lobbyists have been afflicting on us citizens. Congratulations to CMD for well-deserved recognition and focusing the light on appropriate issues that matter. We still have a long way to go. The evidence is that the MacIver Institute, the far right wing propaganda outlet in Madison, was recognized for what amounts to a retaliatory fishing expedition. CMD has earned the well-deserved recognition. Congratulations and thank you, thank you, thank you.

Very well deserved. Congratulations to your entire team.

It is imperative that all like-minded freedom loving Americans' stand together to remove not only Scott Walker from office, but those who have (blindly) supported his agenda. This is our land - take it back. Do all you can to get like-minded voters to the polls ... On the other hand ... they may be making it illegal to vote for any person other than the office holder.