Conservative Group Loses Suit Against Evers
Federal court rejects MacIver Institute's demand for access to governors's press briefings.
The MacIver Institute was founded in 2008 as an avowedly ideological organization, named for the late John MacIver, a longtime Republican attorney. It describes itself as “a Wisconsin-based think tank that promotes free markets, individual freedom, personal responsibility and limited government.”
While the group has an arm it calls the MacIver News Service, the stories are clearly done to help the Republican Party and further MacIver’s ideological goals.
In 2019, the group sued Gov. Tony Evers, claiming the Democratic governor had specifically excluded MacIver’s reporters — notably, Osmulski, the news director for the MacIver Insitute — because of the group’s political affiliation.
In March 2020, U.S. District Judge James Peterson wrote an opinion rejecting the suit and finding that Ever’s staff had excluded MacIver based on its media access policy, which limits access to “organizations whose principal business is news dissemination.”
“Evers has reasonably concluded that MacIver is not a bona fide news organization,” Peterson wrote. “MacIver publicly brands itself as a think tank committed to ideological principles. It engages in policy-driven political advocacy, including advocating for specific initiatives and policy approaches. It has a “news” tab on its website, but it does not maintain a news-gathering organization separate from its overall ideological mission.”
“The protections of the First Amendment extend not just to the traditional press embodied by newspapers, television, books, and magazines, ‘but also humble leaflets and circulars,’ which were meant to play an important role in the discussion of public affairs,” Rovner wrote. “Protecting the right of small, upstart, and non-objective media producers, however, does not mean that the Governor of Wisconsin must grant every media outlet access to every press conference. We cannot fathom the chaos that might ensue if every gubernatorial press event had to be open to any ‘qualified’ journalist with only the most narrowly drawn restrictions on who might be excluded. And no one’s needs would be served if the government were required to allow access to everyone or no one at all.”