Why I'm Opening My Official Emails Up for Public Review

by Rachel Stassen-Berger, Pioneer Press

Unlike the law on Minnesota local and state government officials, state law does not require legislators to release their email messages or correspondence to the public.

But one lawmaker, at the Pioneer Press’ request, will be releasing his email messages to the newspaper.

“If I’m going be out pushing this, I might as well put my money where my mouth is, and I also think it’s going to be an interesting learning experience for the whole Legislature to see how this works,” said Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

Minnesota House Minority Leader Paul Thissen speaks on Feb. 29, 2016, while he and other state leaders meet with reporters before the legislative session began. (Forum News Service photo by Mike Longaecker)
Minnesota House Minority Leader Paul Thissen speaks on Feb. 29, 2016, while he and other state leaders meet with reporters before the legislative session began. (Forum News Service photo by Mike Longaecker)

Thissen is a lead sponsor of measures to open the Legislature to the state’s Data Practices Act, the law that runs what information the public can see and what it can’t. He is pushing a study of bringing more openness to the Legislature, which appears to have some traction this year, and of a bill that would require more openness, which appears to have less backing.


RELATED: Will the Legislature open its emails to the public?


In a few weeks, he has pledged to give the Pioneer Press whatever email correspondence he has had over a three-week period. He is not legally required to do so.

The release from Thissen will include the email he would be required to release if he were a city mayor or the governor. It will not include direct correspondence with constituents so no private data about individuals will become public. Officials required to release their email correspondence, like state and local officials, have a similar exemption in the current law.

After the Pioneer Press’ request, Thissen also let all his emailers know of his decision.

“I strongly believe in open and transparent government. I will now voluntarily be making most of my emails open for public review. Constituent requests for help will be kept confidential or redacted so no identifying information will be made public,” is the first response that those who email his legislative address now see.


Also check out Will The Legislature Open Its Emails to the Public?