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Wisconsin Democrats threaten Wisconsin Reporter

By   /   August 5, 2011  /   45 Comments

By Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Clearly not pleased with Wisconsin Reporter’s news coverage, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin on Friday sent a tersely worded email to Wisconsin Reporter, threatening to let loose party “activists” in a campaign to expose the news bureau’s “obvious bias.”

First Amendment experts call the party spokesman’s threats petulant and “out there,” asserting that the official’s threat to influence the status of Wisconsin Reporter’s statehouse credentials borders on free speech suppression.

Graeme Zielinski, communications director for Wisconsin’s Democrats, criticized a Wisconsin Reporter staffer about a recent interview conducted by the Heritage Foundation with Gov. Scott Walker.

Zielinski was quoted in the Wisconsin Reporter’s story about the interview saying the Walker administration’s proclamation of economic victory is “right-wing fantasy, a total lie.”

Wisconsin’s economy created 9,500 jobs in June, more than half of the total 18,000 positions added nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of labor.

Zielinski pointed to neighbor Illinois as outpacing Wisconsin’s economy. The Land of Lincoln, however, shed 18,900 jobs in June, pushing the state’s total jobless to north of 600,000.

“In your Walker water-carrying article, you made all sorts of arguments for Scott Walker, then used a snippet of my quote, and then used apposite information to debate me. IN MY OWN QUOTE. I’ve never seen that before in my life,” Zielinski wrote in the email to the staff writer.

In short, Zielinski said Wisconsin Reporter is some kind of shill for the Republican Party and isn’t balanced in its news coverage.

Then, the Democratic Party spokesman goes on to write “What happens next.”

“What happens next is that I contact the publishers and editors of the papers that publish you as ‘unbiased,’ and let them know our deep concern about the obvious bias that permeates your entire operation,” Zielinski states in his email.

“Then, we let our activists know which papers publish you, and they write the publisher and editor. Then, we contact the Capitol press pool and let them know about our concerns about your credentialing.

“And we continue on until you actually admit to the truth of your operation.”

What is the “truth of the operation?”

Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the nonprofit open government advocate that owns and operates Wisconsin Reporter and several other news agencies like it in the U.S., calls Zielinski’s assertions “factually incorrect.”

“Wisconsin Reporter’s content is trusted by tens of thousands of individuals in Wisconsin who get our stories, whether through our newspaper partners, our website, or they read it on Facebook or Twitter,” Stverak said. “The people of Wisconsin have come to rely on Wisconsin Reporter for trustworthy and credible content so they know what’s going on, not only in Madison but across the state.”

Wisconsin Reporter, which launched operations late last year, distributes its news products to more than a dozen daily newspapers throughout Wisconsin and northeast Iowa.

“But just because you disagree with a story does not mean you should be able to threaten the ability for that news organization to put out credible news content,” the executive said, calling the Democratic Party spokesman’s statements to Wisconsin Reporter a “direct threat” to the freedom of the press at large.

“The people of Wisconsin and citizens across the country rely on the ability of a free press to not only provide them information of what’s going on in government but of the principal actors in government,” Stverak said.

First Amendment experts have their concerns, too.

Beth Bennett, executive director of the Wisconsin Newspapers Association, served 20-plus years in government relations in the often politically rancorous state of Illinois, and she said she has never seen anything like Zielinski’s email to Wisconsin Reporter.

“To have a party official put something in writing like that is pretty out there,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of emotions. Politics are bubbling to the surface in a way we don’t normally see with editorial products, but this is uncharted territory.”

Kenneth Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Missouri School of Journalism, said most of Zielinski’s threats are petulant but not pure attacks on the First Amendment.

“I’m not a gambling man, but I’m betting he’s going to back down on telling the publishers of the papers you serve that you suck before you go out of business,” Bunting said.

Where the Democratic Party spokesman stood as of Friday evening was unclear; he did not return a phone call and emails from Wisconsin Reporter seeking comment.

The more serious challenge, Bunting said, is the threat to affect Wisconsin Reporter’s press credentials to cover Capitol news.

Below is Graeme Zielinski email to Wisconsin Reporter Bureau Chief M.D. Kittle




  • Just one more example of a “left leaning liberal” who is unable to accept that facts prove them and their ideology wrong. It seems to me that this type of behavior points to a lack of connection to reality. Are there not several mental illnesses and personality disorders that have delusions and lack of connection to reality as symptoms? Is it also not apparent that when confronted by those that have the facts and present them to “left leaning liberals” that have no way to support their position, and the tactic of changing the subject that they “left leaning liberals” use when backed into a corner with no supporting facts, does not help them? Liberalism is just so wrong in so many ways that one could write a HUGE book.

  • Sam

    Dear W.R.

    Thank you for continuing to print and promote truth through your articles. The Democrats often show their true colors and you are about the only source that reveals how far their underhanded tactics go. Keep up the good work!

  • lowell tiwetyen

    if you do not agree with the left then you are a obvious “terrorist ” they call everyone a “terrorist” EXCEPT THE REAL TERRORISTS”

  • Mary

    BooHoo….poor dems. Republicans and Tea Party folks have been bashed around a few times too…so we’re all “even and balanced”.

    Voting this state back into a “liberal dictatorship” will destroy WI. I don’t know about others

    out there but it will hurt me financially to return to continued tax hikes. I haven’t been able to contribute to my own retirement fund for months now. The only survivors will be the WI taxpayer funded public service workers.

    Gov Walker is trying to put this state back to work. Give him a chance!

  • Leon

    I live in Waupun , expressing my views , unless I know that I am among other conservatives , would bring the same kind of harassment you are pointing out here. Most conservatives here in the “City of Trees” keep a rather low profile , dew to the crazed atmosphere of the recall.

    State employees have told me “they have to retire because they are going to loose all of there benefits”.

    These people are either that ignorant or they are blinded by what there union has been feeding them. The Left wingers have lost all site of reality!

    Please keep up the good reporting!!!

  • Ross Blankert

    The Democratic Party does not see the value of the Constitution and do not follow it. The amazing part of this story is that they found one Democrat who knew how to read and everything. Too bad he is probably anti-American and is out to destroy the capitalist system like his comrade Obama.

  • Kathryn

    I find it ‘interesting’ that ANY kind of “SPEECH” which comes from the left is considered acceptable, palatable and never to be seen as biased while any political speech that disagrees with the position/idiology of the Liberal-Progressive ‘movement’ is instantly set upon by people who occupy positions of percieved authority in that party’s heirarchy.

    Those who shout the loudest for “TOLERANCE” are the least tolerant, “Fairness” are the least fair and “BIPARTISANSHIP” are the MOST PARTISAN.

    Those who occupy the throne of open mindedness are, arguably, the LEAST open minded among us.

    It is increasingly apparent that the left is feeling very threatened by those of us who BELIEVE in our American Constitution and the rule of law. The “THUG” tactics which, at one time, were successful in intimidating non-partisan American Citizens aren’t working as well as they used to……….those of us who weren’t paying close attention are now awake and are fully aware of what is going on around us.

    I learned at the age of SIX how to deal with a BULLY. I had been hounded and harrassed for months by the [1st grade] bully and one day I just stopped running away, I turned & faced him & when he came at me I proceeded to beat the snot out of him [as much as a six yr old girl could] in front of a rather large audience………………he never bothered me again. [necessary disclaimer; I am not promoting any kind of violence]

    Keep right on reporting the TRUTH, there are plenty of other publications that print party approved disinformation to keep all of us peasants ‘quiet’ and working to pay taxes with which they buy their votes.

    God Bless!

  • Diane

    More than Wisconsin stands behind you ! Keep on reporting please!

  • Allan

    When I first started reading the Wisconsin Reporter, I was amazed at how unbiased you are. Please keep up the good work. If this Democrat carries thru on his threats then you need to contact all your readers, and then we need to have the backbone to stand up against these destroyers of freedom!

  • John41

    He should learn to live with it, like we conservatives do, relative to the articles from the left leaning, remainder of the news sources.

  • Thomas Berthold

    JC you’ve hit the bullseye, but you’ve been given a stationary target by anyone with a D after their name, or those that support and believe in the misguided thought process of the D’s. Wait, I correct myself….there is no thought process in the mass of unconnected neurons, dendrites, etc. inside their skulls.

  • Mr B

    A union shill is upset at reporting that conflicts with the Democrat union narrative? The same hack that suggested people punch Republican’s? Well that seems reasonable and sane……..

    These people are coming unglued as their ability to influence the public evaporates. The public can clearly see the positive effects the Walker agenda is having. And for Democrats to resort to these kinds of tactics shows how out of touch they are with the public and their desperation. The public is smart enough to know when the Union controlled Democrats are lying to them. For example: State Senators can’t vote on Medicare. Yet, the Democrat attack ads keep suggesting that WI Republicans will end Medicare for seniors. Bald faced lie. And they know it. But, the Democrats think the public is stupid. How insulting is that?

  • They are unglued. Keep up the Great Work, All of Wisconsin Relies on Your Truthful Reporting. Thanks

  • Wilma

    The far-left will always find a way to express their views the other way around when truth is being presented. Wisconsin Reporter,like Fox News is fair and balance..

    Thank you Wisconsin Reporter,keep up the good job and for the the 12 comments posted, thank you,we have to stay connected and united…

    the words of Apostle Paul found in the book of John 8:32 says:” then you will know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will set you free” let us all pray for those that are blinded not knowing the truth..(JESUS CHRIST is the TRUTH)

  • One last thing. If these People send their Goon Squad At You for Intimidation, The Gloves come off. We will show up and Beat the living snot out of this scum. Let Your Readers Know, the second any intimidation happens. I will drop everything and We’ll show up Immediately.

  • Tarryho

    I enjoy reading the emails from Wisconsin Reporter greatly. I work a lot and don’t have a lot of time to keep up to date on things. I find them to be the most unbiased of my sources for Wisconsin political commentary!

  • 30Moves

    The Unions are losing power and don’t like it. There might be a grain of truth in the stereotype of UNION THUGS. – Ya think?

    This is what a Republic looks like. People voted – the people spoke. Get over it Zielinski.

  • Pamela

    Keep holding strong against the aggressive assaults on free speech. The only way these people have any power is when people surrender to their tactics. We must not let them take away our right to free speech.

  • Scott

    “Sign zee papers old man….”

    “But I cannot sign zee papers…”


    “Because you have broken all of my fingers….”

    Keep up the great work Wisconsin Reporter!!!

  • Kevin Commins

    Zielinski posted on twitter a few weeks ago:

    “It’s Medicare’s 45th birthday. Celebrate by punching a Republican”

    Well GZ. What happens is next: I post your comments inciting violence against Republicans and your threats against the press far and wide, to Wisconsion news media outlets and national conservative outlets. The world will see first hand hand exactly what you and your party stands for. We’ll demand that you be fired from your party positiona and prosecuted for inciting violence.

  • JungleCogs

    Just more attacks from the Liberal Mobs. Maybe they’ll have the out-of-state Union Thugs storm your offices.

  • chfarms

    Good for you, Kathryn! I wish I had learned that lesson as a child. Bullies still “beat up” on me because I never learned how to stand up for myself.

    I am commending the writer for bringing this to the attention of those of us who can’t “give it as good as we get it” for whatever reason. What amazes me is that most newspapers in WI lean to the liberal view. There is very little, if any, “balanced” reporting …. and to them that’s OK. But when a newspaper commends the right, it is accused of all kinds of bias and intolerance. Something stinks, worse than a freshly-killed skunk.

  • Jim Anderson

    Please keep up the unbiased reporting. Morons like this union thug just continue their asinine illogic. I feel sorry for them, it must be a lonely feeling that the majority of Wisconsites do not believe a single thing they say anymore. Wisconsin Reporter…..rock on

  • Angry liberal

    Union thugs? You tea-baggers need to look outside Rush-Fox-Murdoch-WisRep…..Ever look at international media to see what a joke we [the USA] have become thanks to the GOP? Check out anything from Europe–Oh wait–they are Socialists and can’t be trusted…..Your ignorance is astonishing!

  • Lynnda

    Dear Angry Liberal: At least you used the proper term to label yourself. Most of you won’t touch the word Liberal with a 10 foot pole. And please, stop with the sexual terms. We are not teabaggers. We are most people in the US, which is what you can’t stand. That’s why we are targets. I for one work 2 jobs, am a member of Mensa (look it up if you don’t know what it implies), pay my bills, help out my adult children as best I can, have no mortgage or credit card expense, and keep my spending down when times are tough. All I expect is for my government to at least TRY and do the same thing. If we are a joke around the world (and sadly I believe we are), it is because of people like you and your president. It’s under his watch that we’ve bungled so many things, that we’ve been downgraded by Standard and Poor’s, that we’re viewed as weak. We have an amateur in the White House who is more interested in celebrating his birthday in high style for an entire week than to really care about what most people are going through right now. I suspect you will say the same thing that your side always say – it’s Bush’s fault. Yeah, right. It’s going on 3 years now and NOTHING is better (aside from Bin Laden being in Hell). It’s your side’s fault, your lack of logic, your weakness in making any tough decisions and your fundamental lack of ability to ever think that anything could possibly be your fault. And “union thugs” – you bet! They are fighting in Wisconsin with everything that they have. They know they are losing power and money and will stop at nothing to keep both. The problem is that the “little people” are waking up and smelling the coffee. We, the Hobbits, who saved Middle Earth might just save our country (thanks to the WSJ for the editorial page). Read what smart people have to say about the issues. You just might learn something.

  • Ben M.

    A question for Wisconsonians: are there any exemptions in your state for property taxes? As in, if you lose your job, can you apply for a waiver to be exempted from property tax?

    If not, what that means is any homeowner who loses his or her job is forced to fund the salaries, benefits, and paychecks-for-life of the public employees… even if that means permanent destruction of their own retirement.

    I can imagine many people tapping IRAs or 401Ks, in order to make mortgage and escrow payments. Of course, that’s on a home that’s probably lost value, too!!

    I really wish the angy liberal types would start to think about that. The haves are the SEIU and AFSCME, the have-nots are everyone else who has a gun to their head: pay the tax or lose your home.

  • Dayne S

    Left wing liberalism is the mental disease for which there is no cure, requiring constant surveilance and behavioral management. Ocassionally for some fortunate victims, symptoms do disappear and normality returns. However, for the vast majority, it is a “progressive” disease and only worsens over time. The rest of us need to remain on high alert and be ready to respond to this constant peril.

  • Albert M

    I looked up Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity on sourcewatch.com. It shows your right wing hacks with ties to the Koch Brothers, question is how much funding you get from them, do you report that?

  • DLS

    “Wisconsin’s economy created 9,500 jobs in June, more than half of the total 18,000 positions added nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of labor.”

    Boy, talk about liars figuring. So Wisconsin created over half of all new jobs? The national increase of 18,000 was “net”, not “total”. Many state created more than 9,500 jobs, and 17 have lower unemployment rates. So yes, that is pretty biased reporting.

  • JoeAstroturf

    Theres a lot of violent people out there we should be keeping our eyes on including Democrat Congressman Michael Capuano who wants to bloody anyone that don’t agree with him fits right in with a lot of Obama’s cohorts. He should get right along with Obama’s Philly Black panthers that want to prevent whites from voting and kill little white cracker babies. They call tea partiers racists but Obama and his ugly looking friend Andy Stern formerly of SEIU didn’t care about Kenneth Gladney almost getting killed by some purple shirted SEIU thugs as they were calling him the N word. The fringe media didn’t report the beating here it is below no one has been prosecuted.


    After the Assembly voted to approve Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill Democrat State Rep. Gordon Hintz turned to Republican Rep. Michelle Litjens and said: “You are F***king dead!”. Outside a demonstrator was attacking a Fox news reporter Mike Tobin. Even the little punk Dwarf Robert Reich is threatening people to hand over their money or he’ll get mad.

    Please Check out song called teapartiers I can’t hear you at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJfboOindCo

    Soldiers as you and your wife leave your last trace

    at least you won’t have to see Nancys botox face

    that chicken neck of hers wouldn’t look good on a snail

    her and a few of her pals in 2012 wil be in jail

    Tea partiers I can’t hear you

    You won’t have to see that venemous plastic face

    she wants patriots like Gladney to disappear without a trace

    she wants the purple shirts to call him the “N” word and bury him in place

    Townhallers I still can’t hear you

  • Dan B

    Albert, as a typical liberal, since you can’t refute the article, you choose to deflect with mis-information. We all know that the funding behind sourcewatch.ORG is none other than the grand socialist puppeteer – George Soros. Therefore the data has zero validity. That’s a big FAIL, Albert.

  • SDN

    “I am not promoting any kind of violence.”

    Why not? Letting thugs and bullies know that they may start something, but you’ll finish it is a Good Thing.

    “Do not fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” — Captain Parker, commanding, Lexington Minutemen.

  • jimspice

    ” (N)ecessary disclaimer; I am not promoting any kind of violence.”

    You know, we can hear the dog whistle too.

  • Lynnda

    Albert: I take your Koch brothers and raise you a George Soros. The Koch brothers impact my life zero percent. How much of your life is determined by what George Soros is trying to do? You are his puppet and you don’t even know it.

  • Kittie

    Keep up the good work. When you get a lot of flack, you are over the target. Truth is stinging, more please!

  • Fed up with unions

    Very eloquent. Many of us agree wholeheartedly.

    It’s time for the silent masses to roar, and remind the unions and the politicians that it is on the back of small businesses and tax payers that they have made their millions.

    To quote a favorite liberal saying, “No mas!” Maybe if we say it in Spanish they will start to hear us.

  • Joyce Belter

    Keep doing what you’re doing and printing articles exposing these thug Democrats for what they are. I am so sick of the unions and their preferred politicians thinking they can control everyone else’s lives. They all need to be exposed for the thugs that they are!

  • Dara Walker

    Shout out from Nevada! Been keeping a close eye on WI from way out West… stand tall and keep up the good work… we got your back.

  • SunnyJ

    And who funds scourcewatch.com? Yeah, so maybe that’s not your best go to source for neutra information. Pathetic.

  • SunnyJ

    Keep up the great work Wisconsin Reporter. Saw articles on this story in the Washington Examiner and the DailyCaller blog. It is so important to call the bully out…turn the light on them and let everyone see who it is and what they are saying and doing in their own words and with their own actions. Bravo.

  • tj

    Keep up the good work. Let your readers know! Stand Brave and Stand tall. We are all praying for you Wisconsin. May these evil thugs spend all their money and we won’t have to deal with them any more.

  • Maxine Hunt

    I agree with you. If what Governor Walker has said about needed change in this state weren’t true we wouldn’t be witnessing such a violent backlash from democrats. I like the way the house is being cleaned in Wisconsin. About time.

  • CraD

    Ha ha…Albert- Is that all you liberals have? When anyone criticizes anything you guys say you immediately start yelling Koch Brothers! Are you people really that simple minded? Here’s the deal, Koch Industries PAC contributed $43,000 to Walkers campaign and $6500 in total between 16 Wi. Legislative candidates all of whom won in November! So of course that $406 contribution to each candidate caused them to be controlled by the Kochs!! $43,000 won’t buy you a state and we found out neither can $30 million dollars of slimey union money! $43,000 v $30 million…

    I cannot believe you guys still chant Koch Bros after what we have just witnessed? Where is your anger over that influence money? You guys just embarrass yourselves every time you open your mouths.

  • Lynnda

    CraD: You’re right. The mantra is now Bush/Koch brothers/Racist. Bush/Koch brothers/Racist. Repeat as necessary to avoid using your actual brain or trying to argue something based on its merits or logic.

  • Jeanne

    As a Democrat and a woman, I do not advocate childish and unseemly threats to anyone. If anyone believes that a newpaper or reporter should be investigated for erroneous reporting or commenting, then do so in a dignified and accepted manner. Along those same lines, name calling and displaying a mob mentality, such as has been displayed by of the commenters on this forum is boorish and not fitting a reasonable discussion.

    That said, those who believe that the Republicans are fit to hold office will be happy to follow them into the 16th Century. I’m guessing that most of the commenters are part of the Middle Class and not the 1%; you should know that the only interests that the entire party, for whom Governor Romney is clearly a puppet (although its difficult to tell whether Anne Romney is actually the candidate as the Governor tends to trot her out when there are difficult questions to answer) has is those of the very wealthiest people in the U.S. It is there vision to turn this country into a slave camp for their pleasure. And, guess which side you’ll be a part of.

    This is not the GOP we’ve known in the past; this is an evil bunch who have no intention of getting America back on track. If you’ve noticed, they’ve been blocking every attempt by President Obama and the Democrats in Congress to keep the progress going. It’s time to read the fine print and not just listen to the sound bites.