The chutzpah of Republican Assembly Robin Vos knows no bounds.
On Friday, Republican leaders delivered a paper ballot requesting the Committee on Assembly Organization approve the use of taxpayer dollars to hire private attorneys.
“This is another example of Speaker Vos subverting the will of the people for political gain. They have already wasted a massive amount of taxpayer dollars on private attorneys to defend their attacks on Wisconsin democracy,” Representative Dianne Hesselbein said.
Vos and the Republicans have spent some $3.5 million of the taxpayers’ money — and the bill may exceed $4 million — on private attorneys to secretly construct and then defend one of the most gerrymandered redistricting plans in America.
And Vos did his best to prevent taxpayers from learning the total bill, fighting efforts to release the information on attorneys fees in response to an open records request.
But his latest ploy may be his most outrageous. Vos is now refusing a subpoena to testify in a federal district court case challenging the constitutionality of Act 43, the redistricting plan he helped create in 2011. That’s right, a paid public servant has refused to accept a legal subpoena asking for him to testify and produce records explaining laws that he passed. By doing so, Vos is adding still more costs for the taxpayer: Ruth Greenwood, the attorney for the plaintiffs, has tried three times to serve Vos or his expensive taxpayer funded attorney Kevin St. John with a subpoena, generating two rounds of dueling correspondence between the lawyers. Every move by Vos to delay and frustrate the legal process simply adds to the taxpayers’ bill.
His attorney St. John argues that a public official like Vos has “legislative privilege” and is immune from civil suits, but Greenwood’s brief notes that Vos already waived this right by “actively participating in the litigation, including filing motions and discovery requests.” She also points to a long list of court cases where redistricting plans were challenged and legislators were “deposed and/or required to produce documents regardless of any claim to legislative privilege.”
But beyond all the legalities here is the issue of one of the state’s top public officials, a legislative leader who some expect to run for governor in 2022, thumbing his nose at the public, and refusing to cooperate with a federal court case determining the rights of this state’s voters.
“We cannot continue to let Republican leaders abuse their powers in effort to further hamper the voices of the people of Wisconsin. This irresponsible spending has to stop. We must refocus our efforts on transparent government that works for the people,” Hesselbein concluded.
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