MADISON, Wis. — A story in the Cincinnati Enquirer reports the details of the lavish accommodations provided for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on his junket to London, England last summer, paid for by a conservative group in association with payday lenders. The story also reveals a previously unreported stop in Iceland for Vos and one of his travelling companions, Cliff Rosenberger. Rosenberger resigned earlier this month as Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives amid reports he is under investigation by the FBI for legislative activities, including his trip with Vos.
“The payday lenders reportedly footing the bill for this exclusive London junket spared no expense to make memories for Speaker Vos and his traveling companions,” commented One Wisconsin Now Deputy Director Mike Browne. “And no doubt they’re hoping Vos and the other legislators on the trip remember them when they show up to lobby for their business interests.”
Vos and Rosenberger’s London junket was sponsored by the conservative GOPAC Education Fund and reportedly financed by the payday loan industry. Two lobbyists for the parent company of payday lender LoanMax, with operations in Wisconsin, joined a handful of lawmakers on the trip.
The story notes:
The travelers’ home base for the trip was the five-star Conrad London St. James hotel, according to emails and schedules related to the visit.
On the trip, the group toured the Houses of Parliament; had dinner with two Parliament members and lunch with Churchill’s granddaughter; rode the London Eye, an enclosed, super-sized Ferris wheel with views of the city; and took a bus tour of London, complete with champagne.
Before visiting London, Rosenberger and Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos were in Iceland, the records show. They arrived in London together and shared a private vehicle from the airport to the Conrad, paid for by GOPAC.
Vos’ then fiancee and now wife Michelle Litjens was also along for the trip. Among her business interests is work for The Jobs First Coalition, a conservative dark money group that has spent almost exclusively to boost the campaigns of Republicans running for the State Assembly. According to IRS records, between 2014 and 2016 the group raised $3.5 million and paid Litjens $235,000.
While it is unknown what funding payday lenders may have provided the Jobs First Coalition, the owner of the parent company of LoanMax and his family members have donated nearly $90,000 to Republicans, including roughly $65,000 to underwrite GOP campaigns for the Vos led State Assembly.
For his part, Vos used his legislative leadership positions to try to advance the business interests of predatory payday loan industry. In 2011 as co-chair of the powerful Joint Committee on Finance he authored a rollback of regulations on the industry and in 2015 as Assembly Speaker shepherded a measure through the legislature that would have allowed LoanMax to dramatically expand their services in Wisconsin.