By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — All the media focus was on the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — or more precisely, the Joint Finance Committee’s decision to boot that organization from the UW-Madison campus — Thursday afternoon at a news conference with budget committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, in Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ office.
“I think a case can be made that this organization, albeit it Bill is here, you know, albeit one that has created a unique relationship with the university is one that members in our caucus has concerns about the propriety of having a news gathering organization, right, left, center, whatever,” Vos, R-Rochester, said of the decision.
The ‘Bill’ Vos referenced is Bill Lueders, the money and politics projects director at the Center for Investigative Journalism. Lueders came to the Capitol to get some answers about the policy which seemingly came from nowhere.
“Where have these concerns been raised, you know, prior to 5 o’clock on Wednesday morning?” Lueders asked.
Vos said the issue was brought up in caucus by “a number of people,” but said he couldn’t recall who piped up first.
“Should it matter that the center provides a service that the university finds valuable for its institution and its students, and wants to preserve?” Lueders asked.
“That’s a decision they made. We believe otherwise,” Nygren said. “That’s why we made the decision we did.”
Vos argued it was an issue of fairness, that the university was unduly subsidizing the center with their voluntary agreement.
“Taxpayers provide the resources for University of Wisconsin System. I think it’s a legitimate function of state legislators as representatives of the people to say whether or not the university should be creating arrangements that some in the public might perceive to be helping one organization or another without giving the same access. The university didn’t go through a (request for proposal) process. They didn’t say let any organization apply and we’ll choose that which is best,” he said.
“We want to set a policy standard to make sure that no organization receives undue subsidies,” Vos said.
Contact Rayn Ekvall at email@example.com