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Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, cheers at a Capitol rally last weekend. Lassa was one of the 14 democratic senators to flee the state.[/media-credit]

Emails recently released by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald show just how far his office was willing to go in order to compel the missing Democrats to return.

The emails were obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a political transparency advocacy group, after the group filed an open records request with Fitzgerald’s office requesting all documents relating to the missing Democrats and actions to compel the their return.

The emails showed Fitzgerald’s staff brainstorming possible punishments including reducing per diem payments, taking Democrat redistricting computers – “It wouldn’t hurt to have a couple extra redistricting computers either,” staff member Tad Ottman wrote – and denying the Democrats an accrued year in the state retirement system.

Other discussed penalties included taking away parking privileges, disallowing district offices and reducing Democratic office staff by one employee each.

“I say we not only make it hurt for them, we make it hurt for their staff as well,” Fitzgerald aid Rob Richard wrote.

Fitzgerald’s chief of staff John Hogan asked in an email to other staff that a procedure should be in place if any of the Democrats came back on short notice. He questioned in an email if a Democrat walked into the Senate chamber, would roll call be immediately taken while someone locks the chamber doors.

The emails also detailed conversations between Fitzgerald’s staff and Laura Rose, deputy director of the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Council, determining the legality of measures put forth to compel the Democrats’ return.

Rose advised Fitzgerald’s staff to have the Committee on Senate Organization approve the majority leader’s resolutions to fine the missing Democrats before taking the measures to the Senate floor in order to provide an additional layer of review. Rose said for staffing and budget purposes, all senators are subordinate to the committee.

The emails were “damaging” and a “public relations disaster,” Common Cause Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck said.

“I certainly appreciate the emotional times in which this all occurred, but staff aids and the senate majority leader are responsible for leadership,” Heck said. “Their intemperate and partisan comments will be to their detriment.”