MADISON, Wis. — The top deputy to Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen sought direction from a $57 million Republican campaign committee that supports Republican attorneys general leading up to the Wisconsin Department of Justice attempt to file a partisan lawsuit against the federal health reform act, according to a handful of records obtained by One Wisconsin Now.
Van Hollen’s office denied the full extent of records requested under the law by One Wisconsin Now. Limited records released, however, show communications days before Van Hollen’s request to file suit between Van Hollen’s Deputy Attorney General, Ray Taffora and Ben Cannatti, the political director of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). RSLC is a 527 political organization outside of Washington, DC, which is funded in part by health industry corporations and has spent in excess of $57 million to elect Republican candidates since 2002.
According to its website, RSLC’s “mission is to elect more Republicans at the state level, including Attorneys General, Lieutenant Governors, Secretaries of State, and State Legislators. The RSLC is the largest caucus of Republican state leaders in the Country.”
“This is the $57 million smoking gun,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “JB Van Hollen’s taxpayer-financed office sought out advice from and was being directed in this lawsuit by Republican partisans and the health industry corporate-funded groups that wanted to derail health insurance reform.”
The emails One Wisconsin Now obtained indicate Taffora had contacted Cannatti looking for lawsuit information. Cannatti’s response, which was sent at 9:09 the morning immediately following passage of the health reform bill, suggested Taffora talk to Bryan Stirling, the Deputy Attorney General of South Carolina, who Cannatti said was “coordinating efforts” between the Republican Attorneys General filing the lawsuit.
Among the largest contributors to the RSLC is the American Justice Partnership, created by the National Association of Manufacturers. The American Justice Partnership has donated $2 million to RSLC since 2006 and its website features advertisements run by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce against Kathleen Falk in 2006, Van Hollen’s opponent. WMC spent an estimated $2.5 million in Van Hollen’s razor-thin victory. The page, also featuring WMC ads for pro-corporate Supreme Court Justices Mike Gableman and Annette Ziegler, is available at: http://americanjusticepartnership.com/partners.php
“Van Hollen needs to explain why instead of consulting legal experts and constitutional scholars, he was relying on advice from political consultants,” said Ross. “It’s a gross abuse of power when the Attorney General puts politics above the law.”
Van Hollen’s office is refusing to release the full extent of email communications regarding the potential lawsuit requested March 24 by One Wisconsin Now. The request sought documents and communications between the Attorney General’s office about the potential lawsuit dating back to January 1, 2010. Van Hollen claims the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege, though it is clearly not the citizens of Wisconsin, his only true clients, that Van Hollen is trying to protect.
“We know why Van Hollen was directed to file the lawsuit and why he is continuing to deny the people of Wisconsin access to all of the public records of the taxpayer-financed Wisconsin Department of Justice,” said Ross, “Van Hollen owes his election in 2006 to unprecedented special interest spending by big insurance and big business and now he’s paying them back.”
Ross said One Wisconsin Now is consulting with its attorneys and will pursue “any and all legal remedies to obtain these records.”