Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Give Republicans a dunce cap

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Give Republicans a dunce cap 
Republicans target journalism center

Waukesha Freeman, Opinion, Page 5A,  6/14/2013Capture

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee’s budget proposal has both good and bad points. But rather than discuss the tax cut or the completely inadequate expansion of school choice, we’re left scratching our heads at a provision that was added in the final hours before dawn.

Republicans included a provision that would kick the Center for Investigative Journalism out of offices on the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus. Worse, they also would forbid the staff of the university from working with the CIJ.

It’s a bizarre move. Of all of the annoying things about Madison, this organization is the one that attracted such attention from legislative Republicans?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the organization, the CIJ is a nonprofit, left-leaning news outlet. They gained an infamous reputation among Republicans after a particularly nasty one-sided hit piece on Supreme Court Justice David Prosser.

On the other hand, the CIJ is privately funded (yes, including money from George Soros) so taxpayers are not subsidizing the organization. The CIJ’s arrangement for office space at the university is in exchange for paid internships and educational opportunities for students.

I’m not going to bother going into the CIJ’s claims of nonpartisan journalism. It’s an irrelevant point.

The taxpayers are not out anything by the relationship between the CIJ and the University of Wisconsin. Instead, the CIJ seems to be helping the university provide young journalism students real-world working experience.

It’s justification after the fact to claim that suddenly private organizations should be limited in their dealings with the university, and it’s not well thought through.

But what about the state’s dairy industry? Are we going to ban it from cooperating with the university? How about other businesses in Wisconsin? Were legislative Republicans paying attention when the governor wanted to encourage more business partnerships with the university?

If the university’s geology department had a similar arrangement with a certain iron mining company, many of those same Republicans members of the Joint Finance Committee would be jumping for joy.

And why limit themselves to tossing journalists from university property? There are journalists occupying prime state-owned office space in the Capitol. Talk about a bunch of annoying liberals.

That space is worth far more than some offices on the university campus. The Joint Finance Committee could have voted to drive journalists from the Capitol like they were chasing money changers from the temple.

What the Joint Finance Committee did wasn’t part of some systematic policy to reduce the involvement of private entities at the university. It certainly wasn’t part of some effort to stop private organizations from benefitting from an agreement with the state. This news organization was targeted for the single reason that it’s made Republicans unhappy.

Beyond the issue of office space, the most obnoxious part is where university staff members are forbidden from working with the CIJ as part of their duties. The CIJ will probably be fine off campus thanks to their donors, but the Republicans are hurting students who benefitted from the internships and the experience.

Tactically speaking, do Republicans really want to set the precedent of combing through the academic departments looking for perceived political enemies to punish? It doesn’t take too much imagination to predict that Democrats would be far better at it than Republicans. They have more practice, and they’re in control of the university.

One of the great episodes in the formation of the modern conservative movement was the publication of William F. Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale.” Ever since that time, conservatives have understood that liberal academia is inherently hostile to conservative ideas.

The way for conservatives to win is not to look for the first opportunity to employ Chicago-style politics to punish their enemies. It’s to build bridges just as liberals have.

Don’t punish the CIJ, but use them as the precedent for conservative organizations to build ties to the university. That would be the best revenge, and more productive, too.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes that he would take responsibility for the last-minute inclusion of a ban of the Center for Investigative Journalism. If Vos is serious about being accountable for the decision, then he needs to be accountable for the provision’s removal from the state budget.

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