You might think that Wisconsin State Rep. Dale Kooyenga is a proponent of free expression. After all, he’s a cosponsor of SB250, “Free expression within the University of Wisconsin System.” But, in a shocking twist, it turns out that the conservative GOP lawmaker is actually just a hypocrite.
Kooyenga admitted on Friday that he had stolen a protest sign from the state Capitol rotunda. He made clear in an interview with the Associated Press that he wasn’t making the admission because it was the right thing to do, but because Democrats had gotten the police report for the theft and he wanted to control the press narrative.
But nothing he could say could change the damning facts. The anti-GOP sign belonged to an 80-year old man who had a permit to display it in the Capitol. But Kooyenga took offense at phrases at the sign, such as one calling Trump a “confessed serial groper.” So Kooyenga just took it and stashed it in his office.
Capitol Police quickly identified Kooyenga as the thief from security video footage. He claimed that he was going to turn the sign over to authorities, and just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. The sign’s owner is trying to get a copy of the footage, which the state Department of Administration has refused to provide, citing the bizarre excuse that it would “reveal the location and range of the cameras” in the Capitol, which could then “be used to thwart law enforcement and endanger public safety.”
Ironically, that “free expression” bill that Kooyenga supports is all about offensive speech. The bill would force the administrations of the University of Wisconsin campuses to adopt rules to ensure that offensive speakers get their chance to talk to students. The bill’s provisions are clearly designed to prevent the cancellations that have happened elsewhere, when campus Republican groups have sparked protests by inviting racists or other controversial characters to speak on campus.
But apparently, to Kooyenga, it’s only important to protect the right of Republicans to be offensive.