Liberal group alleges 'right-wing' bias at UW-Madison center
A University of Wisconsin, Madison policy center launched by Gov. Scott Walker continues to face accusations of partisanship despite email correspondences indicating otherwise.
From the outset, liberals voiced concern that the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership would evolve into conservative think tank, contrary to the university’s repeated assurances that it would not be partisan.
"Republican politicians and their right-wing allies are buying...a front group to promote their propaganda."
One Wisconsin Now, a liberal advocacy group, recently obtained emails from the professors involved in the creation of the center, and claims that they confirm the group’s fears.
“Once again we see right-wing politicians and academics using our tax dollars and chasing even more money from right-wing foundations to promote their ideological agenda,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “Our worst fears that this operation was nothing more than a University of Wisconsin factory for Republican junk science and propaganda have been confirmed.”
The emails show that political science professors involved in creating the publicly-funded center had expressed concerns early on about an imbalance between Republican and Democratic speakers at its first major event.
“I wonder if it is wise to have essentially all of them be prominent Republicans,” one professor wrote in February in response to an email listing potential speakers. “I can't imagine another center on campus that would only invite public officials from one party or ideological camp."
Another professor agreed, writing that "I too think it would be good to have a broader range of folks (in terms of partisanship) for the leadership conference."
Professor Ryan Owens, who came up with the idea for the center and sent the list of speakers, told the Associated Press that he actually reached out to a “ton” of Democrats about the event, adding that while the composition of the panel has yet to be finalized, it will be split evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
Owens noted that the list of confirmed attendees already includes two Democrats (former Assembly Speaker Tom Loftus and current Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz), as well as one Republican and one conservative (Republican Majority Leader Jim Steineke and the conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack).
Nonetheless, One Wisconsin Now still insists that the emails “reveal little concern for balancing partisanship,” saying that the goal of the center is obviously partisan.
"Republican politicians and their right-wing allies are buying themselves a front group to promote their propaganda, and they're using college campuses as their base of operations," Ross said.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @KyleOnCampus