The $57 Million Smoking Gun on Van Hollen’s Health Care Lawsuit

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It’€™s not news to One Wisconsin Now that JB Van Hollen is a partisan hack. After all, this is the guy who not only tried to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters in 2008 after John McCain and the Republican Party begged him to try.

And this also the guy whose office allegedly let every squishy Milwaukee legislator know he was going to file charges against some on-paper felons who improperly voted in the days leading up to the non-vote on the Wisconsin Voter Protection Act.

But One Wisconsin Now is actually shocked at our discovery that Van Hollen’€™s Deputy Attorney General Ray Taffora was coordinating with the Republican State Leadership Committee ‘€“ a $57 million campaign arm of the Republican National Committee ‘€“ for guidance and direction in Van Hollen’€™s unsuccessful attempt to join a Republican lawsuit against the national and historic health reform act.

One Wisconsin Now filed an open records request for documents at DOJ on the federal lawsuit. Van Hollen’€™s office denied the full extent of records requested under the law by One Wisconsin Now. Limited records released, however, show communications days before Van Hollen’€™s request to file suit between Van Hollen’€™s Deputy Attorney General, Ray Taffora and Ben Cannatti, the political director of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). RSLC is a 527 political organization outside of Washington, DC, which is funded in part by health industry corporations and has spent in excess of $57 million to elect Republican candidates since 2002.

According to its website, RSLC’€™s ‘€œmission is to elect more Republicans at the state level, including Attorneys General, Lieutenant Governors, Secretaries of State, and State Legislators. The RSLC is the largest caucus of Republican state leaders in the Country.’€

The emails One Wisconsin Now obtained indicate Taffora had contacted Cannatti looking for lawsuit information. Cannatti’€™s response, which was sent at 9:09 the morning immediately following passage of the health reform bill, suggested Taffora talk to Bryan Stirling, the Deputy Attorney General of South Carolina, who Cannatti said was ‘€œcoordinating efforts’€ between the Republican Attorneys General filing the lawsuit. The exchange is available here.

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 page, also featuring WMC ads for pro-corporate Supreme Court Justices Mike Gableman and Annette Ziegler, is available at: http://americanjusticepartnership.com/partners.php.

This is a $57 million smoking gun and Van Hollen needs to explain why instead of consulting legal experts and constitutional scholars, he was relying on advice from political consultants. It’€™s a gross abuse of power when the Attorney General puts politics above the law.

Van Hollen’€™s office is refusing to release the full extent of email communications regarding the potential lawsuit requested March 24 by One Wisconsin Now. The request sought documents and communications between the Attorney General’€™s office about the potential lawsuit dating back to January 1, 2010. Van Hollen claims the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege, though it is clearly not the citizens of Wisconsin, his only true clients, that Van Hollen is trying to protect.

Keep tuned for more. One Wisconsin Now is exploring any and all legal remedies to get the remainder of these documents.

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