UPDATED: Journalist and Public Blocked from Open Meeting

September 5, 2013  by Nicole Desautels and Rebecca Kemble


Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) at the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue.

The Wisconsin State Senate Committee for Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue passed SB 278 on a party line vote this morning. The bill allows Gogebic Taconite to close off 3,500 acres of Managed Forest Land for public access immediately upon enactment of the law without paying the withdrawal fees they would otherwise have to pay under current law.

During the executive session Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) called the bill and the process by which it is being fast tracked through the legislature with no input from citizens from Northern Wisconsin or other sporting and recreation groups that use the land “contemptuous.” Addressing his fellow senators, Jauch said, “It matters what the people think. It isn’t our government, it’s theirs. Citizens shouldn’t feel like they’re getting stiffed by their own legislature.”

In response, Sen. Alberta Darling said, “I disagree that this shows contempt for the public and that this is a piece of slop. I don’t appreciate the language that’s being directed at those of us supporting this legislation not thinking that government is for the public.”

But the committee chair and the Capitol Police showed contempt for the public during the proceedings this morning. Access to land wasn’t the only thing blocked: Members of the public were temporarily prevented from entering the meeting room by Capitol Police officers, and a journalist was barred from filming inside the session by Senate staff.

Despite a state statute that says that during open sessions of legislative meetings  “the body shall make a reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting,” videographer Nicole Desautels was ordered to turn off her video camera at the beginning of the session.

“I’ve been documenting events in the Capitol for 2 1/2 years, mostly for my youtube channel, LadyForward, and for the Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op. The Progressive magazine website picks up my work on occasion as well,” says Desautels.

She adds, “Many of the senators and representatives know me or are at least familiar with my face. The clerks know who I am, the police know me. They all know that when I film I do so quietly. If I had continued to film in that meeting I would have been arrested. I find it disconcerting that Sen. Tiffany doesn’t have to follow statutes. He can make up any arbitrary rule he wants and there will be no repercussions.”

Here’s her video statement about what happened:

Katherine Bauer traveled to Madison from Menasha yesterday to give testimony at the public hearing. At the end of the hearing she asked committee chair Sen. Tom Tiffany whether the executive session would be open or closed. He assured her that it would be an open session multiple times.

Bauer arrived at the meeting room this morning to find two Capitol Police officers blocking the door. When she tried to enter she was told by Officer Steingraeber that it was a closed meeting. She insisted that Sen. Tiffany told her it was open, and finally a Senate staffer came out of the room to confirm the fact and they were allowed to enter. They were the only members of the public in the room.

Here’s Kathy’s statement:

After the hearing Officer Steingraeber said he was told by his superiors in the morning police briefing that the meeting was closed. He and another officer were ordered to stand guard at the door and not allow members of the public to enter, in apparent violation of Wis. Stat. 19.31 that states, “The denial of public access generally is contrary to the public interest, and only in an exceptional case may access be denied.”

A legislative staffer commented, “it sounds like they made a mistake.”

Desautels and Bauer both filed incident reports with the Capitol Police.


UPDATE September 23, 2013: Here is a video from the Executive Session showing some of the actions that legislators and the Capitol Police did not want the public to see. While members of the public were temporarily blocked from entering the room, Gogebic Taconite lobbyist Bob Seitz was not only allowed entry, but free rein to interact with AP reporter Todd Richmond and Sen. Grothman during the session before the vote:

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3 Comments on “UPDATED: Journalist and Public Blocked from Open Meeting”

  1. Scott Enk September 6, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    Why don’t Wisconsin’s Capitol Police do something useful for a change and arrest the lawmakers, the Walker administration officials, *and* their own officers who are brazenly violating Wisconsin law?

  2. Rob Ganson September 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Fourteen Defining
    Characteristics Of Fascism
    By Dr. Lawrence Britt
    Source Free Inquiry.co

    Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

    1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

    2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

    3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

    4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread
    domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

    5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

    6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

    7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

    8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

    9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

    10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

    11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

    12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

    13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

    14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

  3. jackpotisacat September 23, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    The update is SCATHING. Thank you for capturing it and for posting it. I will share widely.

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