Fearing success is an unenviable political position. But it is the one in which Wisconsin Democrats currently find themselves in the Foxconn debate. Even before Foxconn’s plan for a $10 billion dollar campus creating as many as 13,000 jobs was announced, Democrats and their allies at One Wisconsin Now were throwing shade at the proposal. Caution is warranted before proceeding in any enterprise as large as the Foxconn deal, but Democrats also have the obvious motive of depriving Governor Scott Walker of a monumental jobs victory a year out from the 2018 election. They have looked desperate at times and their latest act of desperation was a waste legislative staff time and taxpayer money.
On August 21, Republican Assembly Representatives (all of them, it is believed by our sources) received the following open records request from George J. Gillis Jr., Political and Research Director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin:
-All Digital Communications, electronic records, communications and internal memorandum containing the following key words from Juily(sic) 1st 2017 until current:
Exactly one week later, Gillis sent a follow-up email essentially telling lawmakers: never mind.
Upon further review, I am withdrawing my records request.
Thank you for your understanding on this issue.
So, Assembly Republican staffers had begun assembling the documents (it is Assembly policy to fill such requests with hard copies), including in the office of Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke. A Steineke spokesperson told us that their office alone generated some 6,000 pages to fill the request, taking eight hours to complete. Multiply that effort by 64 and Gillis’ request becomes a time-consuming and costly one which was then withdrawn. Steineke took to Twitter to reveal the pointless work:
What that means is wasted hours of work at taxpayer expense because Gillis and the DPW can’t be charged for collecting the documents because they won’t be receiving them. We reached out to Gillis asking him to explain why he withdrew the complaint but he did not respond to two emails we sent Wednesday and Thursday.
A source tells Media Trackers that “this is hardly his first open records request, and George Gillis used to work in the Assembly, so he’s fully aware of what standard policies and practices are.” In other words, Gillis would have been well aware of the effort and cost to reply to his request
Only Gillis knows why he withdrew the request at a point where he had to know the effort that already had been put into filling it and he’s not talking. It’s possible someone at the DPW started calculating how much all those copies would cost. It’s also possible Gillis and the DPW received a tip that their costly search wasn’t going to turn up the type of dirt they were seeking.
The state’s open records law is designed to protect citizens and the media from being charged unreasonable fees by by governmental bodies trying to avoid filling requests. But Steineke told us that Gillis’ actions are a flagrant abuse of that protection that cost taxpayer dollars in this case.