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Open Government

Conservative media group sues for access to Wisconsin's Democratic governor

An influential conservative media outlet in Wisconsin is alleging that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is unconstitutionally keeping its reporters in the dark about the governor's public appearances and barring them from events open to other media.

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, which operates an overtly rightward-leaning news service that covers state government and politics, filed a lawsuit in federal court this week to gain access.

The case is notable in part because it counters a stereotyped narrative — that fights for open government and public access are generally waged by liberal media outlets against conservative government officials.

The suit alleges the news service is being treated differently from other press outlets in Madison because of its political views, in violation of the Constitution's protection of freedom of speech and guarantee of equal protection. It says the governor's staff has refused MacIver's requests to receive media advisories and barred its reporters from a widely attended press briefing in February when Evers detailed his first budget proposal after taking office.

"Our administration provides many opportunities for both reporters and the public to attend open events with the governor," his spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said in a statement. "Gov. Evers is committed to openness and transparency in state government, and he believes strongly that a fair and unbiased press corps is essential to our democracy."

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The editors of Wisconsin's Progressive magazine told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they weren't aware of any similar exclusion by the previous governor, Republican Scott Walker.

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