Scandal Growing Over Revelation Van Hollen Campaign Manager Included in Health Care Lawsuit Emails

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Another day, another damning revelation that the attempted lawsuit to thwart the will of the American people and stop the federal health reform act was an orchestrated plot whose motive was partisan Republican campaign politics.

And once again, Wisconsin’s Republican Attorney General JB Van Hollen distinguishes himself by upping the ante in the ever-growing pot of sleaze in this GOP game of liar’s poker.

Last week, One Wisconsin Now discovered through open records requests that prior to calling on the Governor and the Legislature to authorize the frivolous lawsuit, Van Hollen’s top aide, Deputy Attorney General Ray Taffora had consulted Ben Cannatti, political director of the Republican State Leadership Committee – a $57 million campaign organization which helps elect Republican attorneys general.

Next our research showed that RSLC gave Van Hollen $10,000 – its only contribution in Wisconsin.

The latest stunning bombshell: Van Hollen’s campaign manager, Chirag Shah was a part of the email discussions that included not only Taffora, but also Cannatti and representatives of 13 other states being encouraged to join the lawsuit spearheaded by Florida Republican Attorney General (and aspiring Governor) Bill McCollum.

Shah offered a sheepish and unconvincing explanation to reporters telling the Wisconsin State Journal “he thought he received the e-mails because he asked – independently of Van Hollen – to be added to the e-mail list for the committee, which seeks to elect more Republicans at the state level.”

He provided a similar answer to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, saying he was in the loop through the Republican Attorneys General Association.

If he is taken at his word, Shah’s inclusion are even more evidence that the Republican State Leadership Committee was calling the shots in this partisan lawsuit.

The exchange was started the morning after passage of the reform bill Monday, March 22 at 10:19 a.m. by South Carolina Deputy Attorney General Bryan Stirling and concluded the next day. Contributing to the email exchange was also McCollum’s Chief of Staff Joe Jacquot.

McCollum was the lead author of the lawsuit and Cannatti told Taffora in a previous email that Stirling “has been riding point on coordinating efforts btwn all the various OAGs [office of attorneys general].”

The other states included on the email: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington. Oklahoma eventually declined to join the lawsuit. The emails from obtained by One Wisconsin Now did not appear to include representatives of either Nebraska or Louisiana, both of whom did join the lawsuit.

All of the attorneys general signing onto the lawsuit are Republicans with the exception of Louisiana. According to media reports, the Louisiana attorney general told several staff he was signing onto the lawsuit in a deal cut with GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal to avoid budget cuts for his office. He and Jindal have both subsequently denied this allegation.

The national news blog Crooks and Liars confirmed contributions by RSLC to the AGs in Virginia, North Dakota and Texas ranging from $15,000 to $50,000. These are not the only contributions made by RSLC to GOP attorneys general in the lawsuit.

And lest Wisconsin forgets, among the largest contributors to the RSLC is the American Justice Partnership, created by the National Association of Manufacturers. The American Justice Partnership has donated $2 million to RSLC since 2006 and its website features advertisements run by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce against Kathleen Falk in 2006, Van Hollen’s opponent. WMC spent an estimated $2.5 million in Van Hollen’s razor-thin victory.

The documents obtained by One Wisconsin Now prove conclusively that this lawsuit was about nothing more than partisan Republican campaign politics and an abuse of taxpayer funds in each state participating in the suit.

Perhaps the taxpayers of those states can send the bills to Ben Cannatti and the GOP puppet masters at the Republican State Leadership Committee. Certainly a $57 million campaign shack that advertises itself as “the largest caucus of Republican state leaders in the Country” can pay for its own legal bills.

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Scot Ross served as Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now & the Institute from 2007 to 2019.