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Alias implications: Wisconsin governor uses 'Warren Spahn' as alternate email

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers was using an alias in the Hall of Famer’s name for his state email account.
Evers and Spahn
Posted at 12:29 PM, Nov 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-28 13:29:41-05

MADISON — Though Friday marked 20 years since his death, Milwaukee Braves great, Warren Spahn’s name is in the headlines for other reasons.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers was using an alias in the Hall of Famer’s name for his state email account.

“The Warren Spahn thing is funny,” Mordecai Lee, professor emeritus at UWM and former State Senator said. “I grew up in Milwaukee in the 50s. I’m glad that there are other people who remember that. It’s amusing that he picked that.”

“I think he’s a true fan of Warren Spahn,” Bill Lueders, President of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council said. “Why wouldn’t everyone be?”

Bill Lueders and Mordecai Lee
Bill Lueders and Mordecai Lee discuss the impacts of Gov. Tony Evers' alias being known.

Lee and Lueders both highlighted that the use of this email address itself is not an indication of immoral behavior by Evers, however they say it doesn’t give off the trustworthiness citizens should expect from their elected leaders.

“I think that every time you do something that has an element of secrecy, you run the risk of losing public trust,” Lueders said. “The public is going to think you’re using it for all kinds of bad things, even if you’re using it for perfectly appropriate ones.”

According to Evers’ Communications Director, Britt Cudaback, this use of an alias is regular.

“As a matter of digital security, dignitaries in the state of Wisconsin have alias email addresses, including the governor, first lady, and lieutenant governor, as has been the case for at least the last decade that I’m aware of, including under former Gov. Walker,” Cudaback said.

We could not independently confirm Walker’s use of an alias email.

Cudaback also says the existence of the alias was known to media outlets who requested email communications through open records requests. She provided six different responses to media outlets from June of 2022 through September of this year, where the response included some variation of the following:

Pursuant to the common law balancing test, all identifiers of the [DIGNITARY] non-public official direct email address has also been redacted. Making this information available would significantly hinder these officials’ ability to communicate and work efficiently. There is minimal harm to the public interest, given that there are numerous public means to communicate with the Office of the [DIGNITARY], and only the address is redacted, not the remaining email content.

In multiple responses, the language included the existence of alternate email addresses for the first lady and the Lieutenant Governor as well.

“It would certainly be understandable if there is a sudden crisis and let’s say, phone lines go down,” Lee said. “The Governor needs to communicate with the State Patrol, he needs to communicate with the Office of Emergency Management, he needs to communicate with the National Guard. He has a back channel, that would not necessarily be as affected as other modes of communication.”

There is one caveat though, according to Lee. Those emails need to be accessible to the public.

“The key is to keep it legal,” Lee said. “To keep it in the family that this is a public record.”

And, according to Cudaback, they are and the contents of those emails have been available when requested. In a statement, she said, “In every instance in which our office has provided such responsive records, we have explicitly made requesters aware of these addresses, and the purpose of their redaction in providing responsive records.”

The email, warren.spahn@wisconsin.gov is no longer active.

While Evers’ office says this is common practice at the state level, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s spokesperson says he is unaware of any email aliases used within the office.