MADISON, Wis. — A recent media report reveals how State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has subsidized his lifestyle with first class travel on junkets paid for by payday lenders and other special interests. Based on a recently filed economic interest statement, Vos took $13,000 in free travel in 2017 and $57,000 since 2014. A frequent travelling companion of Vos, Cliff Rosenberger, recently resigned his position as Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives amid an FBI inquiry into his activities including a European junket with Vos.
“Robin Vos is subsidizing his lifestyle with special interest funded junkets,” commented One Wisconsin Now Deputy Director Mike Browne. “While he gets first class accomodations at destinations around the world we’re left to wonder what are the payday lenders and other special interests footing the bill getting in return?”
According to the report, in 2017 Vos travelled to Iceland and then on to London, England and Normandy, France with Rosenberger and his then fiancee Michelle Litjens, a fundraiser who has been paid over $235,000 by the dark money Jobs First Coalition that supports Assembly Republican campaigns. The group then moved on to Italy where Vos and Litjens wed and Rosenberger was their best man.
The London and Normandy legs of the trip were underwritten by a variety of special interests including payday lenders LoanMax and Advance America. Both companies have operations in Wisconsin. The owner of LoanMax and his family have donated nearly $90,000 to Wisconsin Republicans, including roughly $65,000 to underwrite GOP campaigns for the Vos led State Assembly.
Vos has 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 payday lenders to dramatically expand their services in Wisconsin.
Also kicking in for Vos and Rosenberger’s 2017 European vacation was the wealthy Ohio Republican donor Ginni Ragan. In addition to funding the travel, she housed Rosenberger in a luxury condominium she owned in a downtown Columbus, Ohio high-rise and wrote a $15,000 check to the Vos controlled Republican Assembly Campaign Committee in October 2016.
Reports from Ohio also shed light on a 2016 junket to China that appears to have included Vos and Rosenberger and lobbyists for a number of special interests, including payday lender Advance America.
Browne concluded, “Robin Vos can claim his actions are on the up and up, but it sure looks like the special interests have stamped his passport to corruption.”