“Democracy Dies in Darkness.” That slogan, which appears on the masthead of The Washington Post, sums up how important news and information is to a public that is responsible for electing its leaders.
The leadership of the La Crosse County Republican Party thinks that it’s important for the public to see what their elected leaders are doing — not just when they come home to campaign, but when they are 130 miles away in Madison.
That’s why we salute WisconsinEye for the good work that it does in documenting the goings on in our state capitol, and that’s why we recently shared a video it produced showing legislators — including Rep. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska, and Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse — remaining seated during a recent salute to Wisconsin National Guard troops in Madison.
Since sharing the video, we’ve come under fire from Democrats and from WisconsinEye for displaying the footage and for asking some tough questions.
While it’s true that WisconsinEye has an agreement with the Legislature that states its material won’t be used for partisan purposes, that agreement does not extend beyond the Legislature, no matter how hard the recent column by Margaret Farrow and Mark Meyer tries to imply that it does.
Additionally, contrary to their column’s claims, we removed the video from our Facebook page after being asked, replacing it with a still image — a picture that speaks 1,000 words of Shilling and Doyle remaining glued to their seats while their colleagues on the other side of the aisle applauded our troops for their accomplishments while deployed at the southern border.
Democrats did rise at the end of the presentation for a moment of applause, but does that moment erase the partisan display of the previous several minutes?
These troops had just been recalled from their mission on the border by Gov. Tony Evers. That withdrawal was both blatantly political and stunningly misinformed. After the governor’s actions, what did we hear from our local legislators? Silence. One month later, when Rep. Tony Kurtz was commending those troops for their role in seizing drugs and stopping 12,800 people from illegally entering our country, what was the response of Shilling and Doyle? Silence.
Do Shilling and Doyle support Evers’ decision to pull the Wisconsin National Guard troops from the Mexican border? Do they support open borders?
Their unwillingness to stand and recognize the accomplishments of our troops demonstrates that they lack the courage to stand up to Evers when he’s making a mistake.
That’s the truth that some would rather keep hidden in darkness, and it’s why some local Democrats complained to WisconsinEye about our use of the footage.
If our legislators would rather hide the truth than explain their actions, it may be time for new leadership.
Editor’s note: A review of the WisconsinEye footage shows everyone assembled standing and applauding during most of the gathering. An exception is noted in the adjacent response from Rep. Steve Doyle. Also, read the correction issued by the Associated Press about its coverage of the event.
As for using WisconsinEye footage for political purposes, there is nothing in the user agreement or the disclaimer that exempt non-legislators from the agreement they are required to sign. WisconsinEye CEO Jon Henkes said: “The user agreement is broadly written to include not only legislators and staff, but also individuals acting on one’s own behalf or as a representative of an organization. We did this to set a high bar in guarding against negative political attacks and the berating of elected officials — the antithesis of the mission and the spirit of WisconsinEye.”