MADISON, Wis. — A search of court records by One Wisconsin Now reveals a lawyer/lobbyist hired by the co-chairs of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance has worked for Republican legislators before. Andrew Phillips was an attorney of record defending 14 Assembly Republicans, including Speaker Robin Vos and Majority Leader Jim Steineke, when they were sued in April 2019 over their alleged efforts to discourage disclosure of information under the state open records law.
“It turns out the lawyer/lobbyist working for Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee had previously defended the actions of several of their colleagues, including Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Steineke, when they tried to subvert a citizen getting information about their government,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Analiese Eicher.
In late August, the Republican co-chairs of the state budget committee hired a lawyer at state taxpayer expense who mere days earlier was announced as part of a new contract lobbying operation. The move came as part of an ongoing dispute in which Republicans are refusing to agree to confidentiality to allow the Attorney General to brief them on possible settlements in litigation, like multi-state litigation involving opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, as he is required to do by a controversial law the Republicans passed after losing the office in November 2018.
According to media reports and court records, Phillips was retained by 14 Republican legislators who were sued in April of 2019 in an open records dispute. The plaintiff had requested, in electronic format, records of contacts from the public regarding the Republicans’ convening of a legislative session after their losses in the November 2018 election. In an unmistakable effort to discourage release of the records, which revealed overwhelming opposition to the legislative temper tantrum pitched by the GOP, the defendant legislators refused to supply the records electronically and instead demanded the requester pay a copying fee of 15 cents per page for thousands of paper documents.
Besides experience defending Republican attempts to subvert open government, the Republicans’ lawyer/lobbyist brings a host of potential conflicts of interest to the table. After One Wisconsin Now raised questions about potential conflicts, it was reported he will not participate in any discussions over settlements arising from Wisconsin’s participation in multi-state litigation suing opioid manufacturers, due to conflicts of interest.
Eicher concluded, “The mess Republicans made with their election loss temper tantrum keeps getting messier. At least they can rest easy knowing the lawyer/lobbyist they hired as part of this fiasco can double as a defender of their habit of undermining open government.”