MADISON, Wis. — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos recently inked a deal to pay a Chicago law firm at least $840,000 in public tax dollars to intervene in a lawsuit over how he and his fellow Republicans redrew state legislative district lines to give themselves an unfair partisan advantage. According to new court filings, reported by the state news service WisPolitics.com, Vos’ lawyers are alleging there are no circumstances that “…warrant deposing a high-ranking public official like Speaker Vos” as part of the lawsuit in which he has intervened.
“Robin Vos helped oversee the rigging of the state legislative district lines to give himself and fellow Republicans an unfair electoral advantage. He’s using his power to hire lawyers to defend his partisan power play at taxpayer expense,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Analiese Eicher. “Now Robin Vos’ lawyers, for whom we’re paying, are arguing Robin Vos is above the law and shouldn’t have to answer any questions about what he’s done on our dime.”
Vos and his fellow Republicans have already charged Wisconsin taxpayers millions in fees for lawyers to defend their actions to redraw state legislative districts in ways that help them win elections. Total costs are on pace to run $3.5 million, according to media reports.
The November 2018 election is a dramatic demonstration of how the rigged lines worked to the advantage of Vos and his fellow Republicans. Despite Democrats winning 54 percent of the total votes in races for the State Assembly, Republican Vos leads a state Assembly in which his party holds 63 of the 99 seats.
A national analysis by the Associated Press reveals Republicans, including those in Wisconsin, “benefited from a built-in advantage … based on how political districts were drawn, that prevented deeper losses or helped them hold on to power, according to a mathematical analysis by the Associated Press.”
Eicher noted Vos has a pattern of leveraging his public office to serve his personal whims, like his pursuit of partisan, political power. State records show Vos, as Speaker of the Assembly, has assigned himself 14 staff positions at a projected cost to taxpayers of over $1.14 million in salary and benefits for the year in 2019.
More records obtained by One Wisconsin Now show Vos has not been shy about taking other perks of public office. Since entering the Assembly in 2005 through the first half of 2018, Vos took over $127,000 in taxpayer-funded per diems, payments to legislators intended to cover expenses for days they spend in Madison.
Vos has also snagged over $30,000 in taxpayer-funded travel since ascending to the Assembly Speakership, including jaunts to destinations like New Orleans, Los Angeles and even China. When traveling to less exotic locales, such as driving around his Burlington-area legislative district, Vos has tapped taxpayers for nearly $13,000 more in expenses.
Taxpayers aren’t the only ones who have picked up the tab for Vos’ expenses and travel. Vos has been subsidizing his lifestyle with first class travel on junkets paid for by payday lenders and other special interests. Economic interest statements he is required to file by state law revealed he took $13,000 in free travel in 2017 and $57,000 since 2014. A frequent traveling companion, Cliff Rosenberger, was forced to resign his position as Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives amid an FBI inquiry into his activities including a European junket with Vos.