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Tool of the Week: AG Josh Kaul, selective 1st Amendment defender

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Earlier this year, Attorney General Josh Kaul lapped up liberal praise for ending a restrictive policy put in place by his Republican predecessor that limited the state’s open records law.

Kaul was hailed as a hero by the “good governance” crowd.

We haven’t heard much from that crowd now that Kaul has sided with bad governance in arguing for a litmus test to determine who’s a journalist and who isn’t, and what news organizations are acceptable to fellow Democrat, Gov. Tony Evers.

Kaul’s recent motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the MacIver Institute shows he is a limited defender of the First Amendment and true government transparency at best.

MacIver’s lawsuit alleges Evers violated the conservative news organization’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when the governor’s press team barred MacIver reporters from attending a budget briefing and blocked MacIver from the general media list. This, despite the fact that the MacIver Institute has been a credentialed member of the Capitol press corps for years.

Kaul, as Empower Wisconsin reported last week, argues on behalf of his client that MacIver is not a “bona fide” news organization.

“Here, in contrast, the press conferences and briefings to which MacIver seeks access are open to only a select group of invited journalists who meet the criteria for bona fide press organizations…. MacIver does not meet those criteria and therefore is not ‘otherwise eligible’ to attend press conferences and briefings,” the attorney general asserts in his motion to dismiss.

In other words, Kaul and Evers won’t let MacIver join in any of the governor’s reindeer games.

Why? Because Evers’ liberal handlers said so. The press team quickly constructed its own set of “standards” by which to determine who makes the cut. In Evers’ partisan wisdom, MacIver, which has been critical of his policies, is out, but liberal journalist John Nichols, who writes glowingly about Evers’ left-wing initiatives, is in.

The press list omits MacIver but includes far left activists One Wisconsin Now and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

It all reminds us of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s call in 2013 for the government to decide who is a real journalist and who isn’t.

Such litmus test proposals crashed with a thud, the way we hope the federal court will shoot down Kaul’s ridiculous argument on government gate-keeping of the press.

For his limited defense of the First Amendment in devotion to partisan politics, Attorney General Josh Kaul is Empower Wisconsin’s Tool of the Week.

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