Credit to Right Wisconsin for calling this one early. Here’s the story as the media wants you to see it:
MADISON (WKOW) — The former head of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions told 27 News Friday he was told to never use state email or phones to communicate anything of importance at one of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-Wisconsin) first cabinet meetings in early 2011.
27 News contacted former DFI Secretary Peter Bildsten, after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported on similar claims made by both Bildsten and former Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation CEO Paul Jadin.
Bildsten said former Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch gave the directive.
“He made it very clear, once and only once, and it was loud and clear to me and I think everyone in that cabinet, that, as he put it – ‘don’t send me anything of importance on state email, I won’t reply to it. Don’t call me with anything of importance on a state phone, I won’t answer it. If you’ve got anything of importance you call on your personal cell phone or you walk it over.’ And that’s how most of us operated,” said Bildsten.
Huebsch did not respond to a request for comment from 27 News, but a spokesperson for Gov. Scott Walker called the allegations from Bildsten “ludicrous.”
But, of course, Huebsch did respond. And he explained what he said… repeatedly.
I did not warn my fellow cabinet members of the caution they must take when using email at a cabinet meeting early in Governor Walker’s term. I did it repeatedly, at several cabinet meetings. I did not direct them to never use email, I told them to be prepared that anything they write, or more accurately an edited version of their email that fits a pre-written story could show up on the front page of the newspaper, so review emails carefully before sending.Email is often spur of the moment, sometimes emotion driven communication. It can include irony, sarcasm or thoughts intended as jokes that, when taken literally or out of the full context of the conversation can appear to mean something very different, even completely opposite of what was intended. In this era of “gotcha” politics, where opponents and some journalists use anything available not just to embarrass but destroy, extra caution is essential.Although unnecessary, since I’m sure you’ve already considered doing it, I will provide an example from a previous paragraph. If you print the line “I did it repeatedly, at several cabinet meetings,” as my only response to your email, your pre-determined, narrative driven story is complete. It is taken out of context and means the exact opposite, but for a select few of you that is no longer a concern.In addition, I did not tell them to avoid making public records. I instructed them that it didn’t matter if they were using “state email, Gmail or carrier pigeon,” if they were dealing with state business, it is subject to open records. Finally, in drawing upon my years of experience dealing with the print journalists in the Capitol press corps, I encouraged them to “pick up the phone” whenever possible rather than email. I did not give that advice to avoid creating a public record. I have never feared having the people of Wisconsin hear the entire record of our activities. I simply know they will never hear it through you or a select few of your colleagues.