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09 February 2012

FollowUp 11: Wisconsin Republican Dirty Tricks

We been following all kinds of shenanigans from Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker, from lies while campaigning for governor to threats to unions and undermining voting rights (see my previous ten posts, linked at the bottom, for my take on these and more).  The latest revelation is a redistricting scandal that might be more serious than everything prior.  Lawsuits have already been filed.  Let's start with an overview from UPI.
A internal GOP memo instructed legislators to ignore public opinion on the redrawing of legislative districts, and instead concentrate on what was being said in private sessions. The party documents also include a set of talking points stressing legislators willing to talk about maps of suggested districts could be called as witnesses in court cases. A case in Milwaukee federal court has already been filed, claiming a proposed redistricting violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act by mistreating minority communities.
Most of the Republican legislators signed an agreement to keep all of this secret.  Now it is out.  Wisconsin has an Open Meetings Law that was apparently violated.  My reading of this is that the GOP meetings and endeavor to keep those meetings from public knowledge is a clear failure of the Showers test, described in the linked guidelines.  While there is an exemption in the open meetings law for political party caucuses, this kind of explicit evasion of the public in creating laws is not exempt.  Here is more about what happened from Sheboygan's WHBL.
Documents released [Monday] showed that virtually all G-O-P lawmakers signed confidentiality agreements which promised not to discuss the maps while they were being written. And they were told that those who speak out could be called as witnesses in court. The documents also said that 33-of-the-58 Republican Assembly members would pick up additional voters under the new districts. The documents were released after three federal judges in the redistricting suit said G-O-P legislators filed frivolous legal requests, so they could hide their actions in creating the new maps. Those maps will be used for the first time in this fall’s elections unless the courts overturn them.
Several attorneys helped Republicans draft the new districts. And Peter Earle, the attorney for the Hispanic group, called the process a quote, “intentional plan to legislate in secret under the guise of attorney-client privilege.” The lawsuit claims the new districts are unconstitutional.
The redistricting is necessary following the 2010 national census.  The story of secret meetings and documentation of secrecy agreements was first covered by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
GOP lawmakers fought releasing these new documents and testifying about the maps in a pending court case but relented after a panel of three federal judges based in Milwaukee last month found they had filed frivolous motions in trying to shield the information from the public.
Included in the documents released Monday was a set of talking points that stressed that those who discussed the maps could eventually be called as a witness in a court case.
"Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room. Ignore the public comments," the talking points also say.
This will likely go beyond frivolous lawsuit penalties to charges of perjury.  Again from the Journal Sentinel.
The new batch of records also includes memos from Foltz to Republican lawmakers telling them how GOP candidates performed in their districts under the new and old maps. In a deposition in December, Foltz testified the new maps were not meant to increase the GOP majority in the Legislature.
Of the 58 Republicans in the state Assembly at the time, 33 would pick up additional Republican voters. For instance, the district for freshman Rep. Mike Endsley (R-Sheboygan) would go from marginally to solidly Republican.
Those Republican representatives experiencing a drop in the number of Republican voters in their district under the redistricting plan would still have a strong Republican majority of voters. For instance, the district represented by Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) would still be about 60% Republican despite losing a share of its GOP bases under the redistricting plan.
Republicans had the maps drafted in Michael Best's Madison offices and believed the process they used granted them attorney-client privilege that would keep their communications from being disclosed publicly. But the three-judge panel has rejected that argument and said lawmakers were trying to keep too much under wraps. McLeod and two other attorneys in the case were ordered to pay nearly $17,500 last month after the court found they had filed frivolous motions trying to keep information secret.
Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) said Monday he had never before been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement during his four decades in office.
The wording I have used of dirty tricks was originally a bit of hyperbole.  I am sorry to say that the maneuvering of Wisconsin's Republicans has reached the definition of those words, according to Google.

dirty tricksplural of dirt·y trick (Noun)

  1. A dishonest or unkind act.
  2. Underhanded political or commercial activity designed to discredit an opponent.
16 November 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.
30 November 2011, FollowUp 1.
4 December 2011, FollowUp 2.
11 December 2011, FollowUp 3.
14 December 2011, FollowUp 4.
15 December 2011, FollowUp 5.
30 December 2011, FollowUp 6.
13 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
17 January 2012, FollowUp 8.
25 January 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 February 2012, FollowUp 10.

12 February 2012, FollowUp 12.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 13.
22 February 2012, FollowUp 14.
6 March 2012, FollowUp 15.
12 March 2012, FollowUp 16.
16 March 2012, FollowUp 17.
30 March 2012, FollowUp 18.
31 March 2012, FollowUp 19.
3 April 2012, FollowUp 20.
4 April 2012, FollowUp 21.
11 April 2012, FollowUp 22.
14 April 2012, FollowUp 23.
17 April 2012, FollowUp 24.
21 April 2012, FollowUp 25.
29 April 2012, FollowUp 26.
2 May 2012, FollowUp 27.
6 May 2012, FollowUp 28.
10 May 2012, FollowUp 29.
13 May 2012, FollowUp 30.
23 May 2012, FollowUp 31.
24 May 2012, FollowUp 32.
30 May 2012, FollowUp 33.
2 June 2012, FollowUp 34.
4 June 2012, FollowUp 35.
5 June 2012, FollowUp 36.


  1. Don't these actions rise to a criminal level? It seems to me that RICO and Federal violations of Due Process might be filed against all of the officials who signed the confidentiality agreement. This is in effect an attempted putsche- - they might even be prosecuted as traitors!

    1. My opinion is the same. There are lawsuits that have been filed. It is outrageous and, to my eye, criminal. I am not sure that traitor is the right word, but I'm quibbling. Governor Walker and those who were party to the subterfuge, breaking the laws of the State of Wisconsin, must be both prosecuted and removed from office.


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