MADISON, Wis. — Questions continue to swirl around the Republican co-chairs of the state budget committee hiring a lawyer at state taxpayer expense who mere days earlier was announced as part of a new contract lobbying operation. The hiring of the lawyer is part of an ongoing dispute in which Republicans are refusing to agree to confidentiality to allow the Attorney General to brief them on a possible settlements in litigation, as he is required to do by a controversial law the Republicans passed after losing the office in November 2018.
“Republican made this mess by rushing to pass a poorly thought out law while they pitched a post-election fit because they lost,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Analiese Eicher. “Their solution, hiring a lawyer/lobbyist at taxpayer expense, is a farce that raises even more questions.”
Among the questions raised by the hiring of a lawyer/lobbyist by a legislative committee that helps shape the nearly $80 billion biennial state budget, has purview over all bills with significant fiscal impacts and has oversight of supplemental state agency spending requests are:
- Why did Republicans insist on hiring a lawyer/lobbyist at taxpayer expense instead of simply signing confidentiality agreements as proposed by the Attorney General, and as they have done in the past?
- Are any clients of the Republican-retained lawyer/lobbyist or the practice with which he works associated with litigation being overseen by the state Department of Justice?
- Are members of the Joint Committee on Finance being lobbied or will they be lobbied by the attorney’s practice on other matters?
- Will the lawyer/lobbyist recuse himself in cases that could involve clients he is representing or who have retained the firm for which he works?
- The lobbying practice with which the attorney works is headed by a former top staffer to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. What influence did Vos exert in the choice of which attorney to hire?
Eicher noted that while Democrats on the committee have objected to the move by committee co-chairs Rep. John Nygren and Sen. Alberta Darling, other Republicans on the committee like prospective U.S. congressional candidate Sen. Tom Tiffany have been mum about the unprecedented move.
She concluded, “Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee said they had to slash proposed budget funding for things like K-12 public schools and special education because we couldn’t afford it. Every single one of them that took those votes should have to answer to their constituents why now they’re hiring a lawyer/lobbyist at taxpayer expense to try to fix the mess they made themselves.”