Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is criticizing Tony Evers’ use of a secret alias email in the name of a deceased baseball legend, saying he never did such a thing.
As “Warren Spahn-gate” sparks questions about the practice, Thompson told Wisconsin Right Now that he did not believe it was right.
“I never did this and do not think it is right!!” Thompson said.
Wisconsin Right Now broke the story that Evers has used a secret alias account in the name of Milwaukee Braves legend Warren Spahn. His office has asked us to narrow our request to see all emails sent to and from the account, saying there are approximately 17,000 records and that providing them all is too broad. We received a handful of emails from Evers’ Department of Administration, but the address was blacked out.
For some reason, no one else in the news media chose to interview Thompson, who was Wisconsin’s governor from January 5, 1987 – February 1, 2001. Email became popularly used around the middle of Thompson’s term.
Melissa Baldauff, Evers’ former deputy chief of staff, wrote on X, “Every governor in Wisconsin since Tommy Thompson has used an email alias…” That would mean that two Democratic governors – Jim Doyle and Evers – as well as Republicans Scott Walker and Scott McCallum used secret email aliases.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Walker used an alias email that was the inverse of his first and last name – email@example.com, but then Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel advised against using alias emails. No one has revealed what pseudonyms McCallum or Doyle used if that is true.
The media of course were relentlessly critical of Walker over his use of emails, which were even the subject of a criminal investigation into county practices. Google “Scott Walker emails Journal Sentinel,” for example, and you get many examples.
Dan Lennington, deputy counsel with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, told the Journal Sentinel that the alias email practice “was not condoned or recommended by the Wisconsin Department of Justice and Office of Open Government, at least since he worked in the DOJ from 2012 to 2019.”
“In fact, it’s been explicitly discouraged,” Lennington said to the newspaper. Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul did not respond to a request from the newspaper. Since AG Josh Kaul has been so quiet on the matter, one wonders if he has ever used an alias email account?
Lennington wrote on X, “Saying that a fake name was required for ‘digital security reasons’ (the excuse Evers’ office gave the media after our report) shows a supreme lack of understanding for both how email addresses work and the public records law. A fake name was the worst way to set up an alternative internal account. Many appropriate options.”
WILL has filed a series of open records requests with the governor’s office, including for records generated from the use of Signal. “There is a massive problem with state officials using Signal. Auto-deletion features violate the records retention law. We’re going to sort this out one way or another,” he wrote on X.
Evers’ spokesperson Britt Cudaback told the media Evers used the alias account for security reasons and tweeted, “Members of the media who’ve literally received responsive records and have known this existed for some time (because our office explicitly told them so) include the Associated Press, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, CBS58, and FOX6, among other.” That raises other questions. Is she really saying that the media knew Evers was using the name Warren Spahn and didn’t tell anyone? Or is it clever semantics, meaning the media were told there was an alias account but never given the name (and didn’t bother to press the issue?)
Evers’ Department of Administration redacted the name of the email address in its response to WRN. We have filed new open records requests relating to the emails to check whether Evers has complied with open records laws in releasing the Warren Spahn emails over the years.