Memos show WI GOP Legislated in Secret Under the Guise of Attorney-Client Privilege


Once upon a time the building above is where legislators would gather to do the people’s business and even hold hearings allowing input from the public.

Memo–Things have changed.

Now Republican legislators go to One South Pinckney Street, Suite 700, to the law offices of Michael Best and Friedrich, to take a look see at what has been drawn up in the way of law to be passed. They look it over and then sign a confidentiality agreement stating — “you agree not to disclose the fact and/or contents of such discussions or any draft documents within your possession.” Then there are the talking points for them to follow including–“Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room. Ignore the public comments.”

That iswhat we now have learned as a result of lawsuits concerning the GOP’s redistricting of WI :

Madison– legislative leaders secretly developed new election maps last year to strengthen their majority, Republican lawmakers were told to ignore public comments and instead focus on what was said in private strategy sessions, according to a GOP memo that became public Monday.

Other newly released documents also show almost all Republican lawmakers signed legal agreements promising not to discuss the new maps while they were being developed.

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.


All the agreements were also signed by Eric McLeod of Michael Best & Friedrich, one of several attorneys who advised lawmakers on the maps. Legislative leaders have committed $400,000 in taxpayer money to pay Michael Best and the Troupis Law Office for their work on the maps.

McLeod has drawn attention in recent months for providing legal services to state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman under an arrangement in which Gableman did not have to pay.

Republicans and Michael Best turned over the legislative maps and talking points in response to a federal court order.


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 wereordered 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.

He said he visited Michael Best’s office to review his map last year but those at the office would not permit his aide to see it. He said the meeting lasted about five minutes.

“It was a pain in the you-know-what,” he said.

The lawsuit over the maps was first brought by the group of Democratic residents. It was consolidated with a similar lawsuit by Voces. That is the group that filed the complaint Monday with the Dane County district attorney.

“This is an intentional plan to legislate in secret under the guise of attorney-client privilege,” Earle said.

There is much more at theJournal Sentinel link.

We are so far off the track it’s hard to even see where the track once was. I guess this is where you look now:

Above picture from theMadison Office page of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP which ironically when you save is automatically named—“Madison Office-Shadow”

10 thoughts on “Memos show WI GOP Legislated in Secret Under the Guise of Attorney-Client Privilege

  1. And people wonder why SOME people want intentionally violating state Open Meeting laws to be a crime.
    Because without such a provision, strongly enforced, you get crimes like this.

  2. I’m no lawyer–could someone please tell me at what point a deliberate collusion to mislead the public you were elected to serve becomes a criminal fucking conspiracy?

  3. And I don’t know Wisconsin open-meeting law, but here in North Carolina, if an elected body worked with a law firm like this to be violating our open-meetings law, I’d be seeking to have the attorneys involved disbarred. This action appears to directly violate an attorney’s oath as an officer of the court.

  4. So when Republicans talk about the need for “limited government,” they really mean “limitedpublic participation in government.” Good to know.
    (See also: Mitt Romney’s comment about discussing the economy in “quiet rooms.”)

  5. You should credit the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, from which you quote at great length, with more than that tiny mention. That was good reporting.

  6. George…there is a link at the beginning and a link at the end and they are named. What more would you suggest?

  7. Look,just have done with it, and start calling Gov. Walker “our dead-eyed little Fuhrer”…
    Isn’t he a Baptist, or the son of a Baptist minister or something? I find it interesting that very often to people who are the most “religious”–or at least exhibit extreme piety–are very unscrupulous and sleazy types.
    Think Samuel Johnson was a little off in saying that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. In this country, religion is.

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