To the Telegram:
I would like us to consider some “costs” that may or may not impact our pocketbook but that impact us just the same.
Wisconsin GOP legislative leaders secretly developed new election maps last year to strengthen the majority. Newly released documents show 75 Republicans signed legal confidentiality agreements promising not to disclose the fact and/or contents of discussions or draft documents.
Republicans also followed a set of talking points drawn up at this law firm. “Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room. Ignore the public comments.”
A group opposed to the redistricting maps has brought this case before a panel of three federal judges.
“Republicans had fought to keep the emails and other documents private but the judges issued a scathing order on Feb. 16, forcing them to make the contents public. Judge Stadtmueller, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, issued another stern reprimand on Feb. 21 blasting Republicans for what he called a pattern of secrecy and concealment.
Judge Stadtmueller said: “The facts are the facts. And what has occurred here is beyond the pale in terms of lack of transparency (and) secrecy … Wisconsin has prided itself from one generation after another on openness and fairness, and doing the right thing. And to be candid, we have seen everything but that in the way this case has progressed,” according to the Feb. 27 St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Now, $400,000 has been paid to the law firm of Michael Best to draw up the maps in secret and write the secrecy agreement. Two Republican aides continue to work at the law firm — not the Capitol — for about $100,000 a year at taxpayers’ expense. The state has been billed $288,000 by another law firm with an additional amount to be capped at $925,000 for redistricting.
The Republicans refused the judges request to redraw the election maps resulting in a trial at taxpayers’ expense. No decision has been made. The continuing and broadening FBI John Doe probe has resulted in five arrests of former and current aides of Gov. Scott Walker. Two aides have pleaded guilty with one agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. Cindy Archer, an appointee of Gov. Walker, has had her home raided by the FBI. Two more aides close to Walker, Cullen Werwie and Rose Dieck have been given immunity. Walker has hired two criminal lawyers.
To my knowledge, the financial costs to the taxpayer of this ongoing John Doe investigation have not been published.
Here are my questions:
Are we willing to bear the cost to the damaged reputation and integrity of Wisconsin, its legislative process, the governorship, the Supreme Court and the people of Wisconsin that has occurred this past year?
Will we willingly allow our voices to be ignored and silenced, and allow our elected officials to operate in secrecy?
Will we use the power of Wisconsin’s Constitution to restore the state’s progressive tradition of honest and open government, and bring back Wisconsin values to our state.
It’s up to us.