Matt Campbell and Jeff Woodmansee, creators and coauthors of the progressive blog Blue Hog Report, were making waves. Big ones. That’s exactly why the state Republican Party tried to shut them down.
The site reported on Secretary of State Mark Martin’s accounting, or lack thereof, of the use of state vehicles. Blue Hog also wrote about Martin’s chief of staff Doug Matayo and his failure to file paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission during his ill-fated congressional run. Seemingly bent on not making any friends in either party, Campbell and company riled many at the Capitol by digging through expense reimbursement records for state legislators, turning up some interesting results for lawmakers in both parties.
But that’s all over now. State Republican Party Executive Director Chase Duggar filed a massive FOI request in an attempt to catch Campbell filing blog reports on state time. Campbell works in the criminal coordinator’s office of the state Supreme Court. A similar request was filed with Woodmansee’s employer, the law library at the Bowen School of Law. Neither request provided the state GOP with the ammunition they were looking for. The goal, however, was accomplished. On May 26, the Blue Hog Report went offline, and will not return any time soon.
I spoke with Campbell about how everything went down, his feelings on the matter now that it’s over and what the future may, or may not, hold.
GM: What was the real motivation behind the FOI requests?
MC: At best it was to scare me, at worst it was to try to get me fired.
GM: Does it make you angry that part of the motivation was to get the site taken down and they’ve succeeded in doing that?
MC: That part is irritating, but what really gets me is the lie they told everybody about it, wanting to make sure the laws were being followed and that nobody was doing this on state time. There wasn’t anything to suggest that I was doing this at work except e-mails that I had sent from my own account and they just put their heads together and said, ‘Well, this proves everything.’ I had made it clear to Alice [Stewart, former spokesman for Martin’s office]. She would ask when I could pick stuff [material he’d FOI’d] up and I would say, ‘I can be there on my lunch break,’ that kind of thing. She knew that it wasn’t being done on work time but they just ignored all that so they could pretend that it was a big quest they were on. Maybe they believed it. Nobody would accuse anyone in the secretary of state’s office of being brilliant. But they didn’t care that it was on work time, they thought they could use that to get it shut down, to get me in trouble and to cause me problems.
GM: I see you have a new Twitter account. Do you have any plans to resurrect the blog in some form?
MC: For now I’m out of it. I got the Twitter handle in anticipation of joining up with Roby [Brock] and Jason [Tolbert] to do work for their blog. Then I asked Justice Hannah about it. I wanted to run the new blog by him just so there weren’t any surprises this time. They didn’t tell me that I couldn’t do it, but they told me that it wasn’t something they were really comfortable with a court employee doing right now, so I figured it wasn’t really worth fighting about because I enjoy my job and didn’t want to make it harder on anyone else.
GM: I think a lot of people will miss the blog. What will you miss about it?
MC: I enjoyed doing it. I enjoyed the investigative stuff especially and, coincidentally, that’s what made them want to cause trouble for me. But that was the one thing my blog was doing that other blogs weren’t, to a large extent. That’s what set us apart. My reason for starting it was because of my irritation with reading the Democrat-Gazette everyday and seeing how superficial the coverage was and seeing how they completely ignored the Tim Griffin stuff. I wanted to get other news out there that maybe wasn’t being covered. I also think that there’s kind of a sense at the D-G that they’re not going to ride any blog’s coattails. So if anybody beat them to a story then it just wasn’t going to get mentioned.
In the immediate future, Campbell said he’s looking forward to spending time with his family and less time on the computer.