By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — It seems state Rep. Chris Taylor has a one-price-fits-all for conservative news outlets, when it comes to open records requests.
$447.35: That’s the bill from state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, to look at her public records involving the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Media Trackers has asked for all of the lawmaker’s records related to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative model legislation organization also known as ALEC.
Media Trackers also seeks Taylor’s records involving the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal news organization based in Madison, and its various online publications — PRWatch, ALECExposed, and Sourcewatch among them.
And the conservative news organization is asking Taylor for emails, invitations, agendas and other correspondence between the liberal legislator and a number of left-leaning groups, including that Progress Now, Common Cause, People for the American Way and the AFL-CIO, regarding ALEC.
Taylor is an ALEC-basher, highly critical of the nonprofit advocate of limited government and free markets and what she sees as its controlling hand over Wisconsin’s Republican state lawmakers.
That’s fine. To each her own.
But Taylor also is a legislative member of ALEC, and she seems to love the liberal spotlight in “infiltrating” the meetings of an organization that ALEC officials say Taylor, as a legislator, is more than welcome to attend.
Taylor made a big stink about her experiences at ALEC’s 40th anniversary event in Chicago last year in a two-part account titled “My ALEC Diary,” published for the liberal faithful in Madison’s The Progressive magazine. Taylor said she felt like she “was on another planet.” The Progressive recently joined the Center for Media and Democracy family.
Taylor plans to charge Media Trackers $29.47 an hour to locate the requested records. That hourly rate comes with photocopying, though.
“I would estimate that locating all of the records you have requested will take approximately 5 hours, for a total location fee of $147.35,” Taylor wrote the news organization.
The legislator estimates there are some 2,000 pages of requested information, at a fee of 15-cents per copied page. That boosts the open records price tag by another $300, bringing the grand total to $447.35.
Media Trackers’ request is for records between June 1, 2013 and May 5, 2014.
Some of the hefty bill does include ALEC’s published materials, Taylor notes. She offers a discount for excluding that information.
“Due to the significant cost associated with locating these records, we request you pay for the full cost in advance,” the lawmaker wrote in her response to Media Trackers.
Well, wouldn’t you know it — Wisconsin Reporter received nearly the exact letter from Taylor, and the exact same bill. Even though Wisconsin Reporter’s request was different from Media Trackers’.
Granted, the open records request seeks similar information about the lawmaker’s communication with liberal groups involving ALEC, but it is not nearly as extensive.
It seeks “access to a copy of all records that refer to the American Legislative Exchange Council” and its variants and the Progressive States Network, and the Center for Media and Democracy. The timeframe covers July 15, 2013 to May 6, 2014.
Taylor’s response to Wisconsin Reporter is verbatim: Same hourly rate, same estimate of five hours to locate the requested documents, same estimate of 2,000 pages, same price tag for different open records request.
Media Trackers intends to pursue its open records request. So does Wisconsin Reporter.
But Wisconsin Reporter in an email response to Taylor’s office did ask why the cost was so high, and whether the representative would be willing to reduce the bill.
As of Tuesday morning, Taylor had not responded.
The state Department of Justice’s Public Records Law Compliance Outline notes that its policy is that “photocopy fees should be around $.15 cents a page, and that anything in excess of $.25 cents may be suspect.”
But the DOJ sets no fee as it relates to locating records, only that “costs associated with locating records may be charged if they total $50.00 or more.”
“Generally, the rate for an actual, necessary, and direct charge for state time should be based on the pay rate of the lowest paid employee capable of performing the task,” the DOJ outline states.
Apparently, the lowest-paid employee in Taylor’s office is pulling in $29.47 an hour.