Sunday, February 12, 2012

What They Heard In That Room

I think I have this thing figured out with the Republicans and their formerly-secret redistricting meetings in the Michael Best offices across the street from the Capitol in Madison.

It appears in June and July 2011, each Republican in the Assembly and the Senate was brought into a room at the law firm individually and shown a map of their newly-gerrymandered district.  One of the leaders was there (in the case of the Assembly, Rep. Robin Vos), and probably other people from the law firm and staff involved in the put-the-fix-in-for-Republicans redistricting project.  Vos was given talking points, drafted by an aide who, in a further outrage, now spends most of his time at the firm's offices instead of at the Capitol.

The talking points were meant for Vos to run the meeting.  The first part of the talking points is strictly ass-covering.  Under the heading "General Map Goals", Vos pretended to embrace three of the legitimate, statutory goals of redistricting -- equal population, "properly drawn" minority districts and "compact and contiguous" districts.  You could imagine the winking, smirking and laughter around the room as Vos recited the empty rhetoric so that, if asked, the legislators could all say they were told those were the goals. But, seriously, folks...

Then Vos proceeded to the meat of the meeting -- why the districts were really drawn the way they were.  As far as that's concerned, the talking points are silent on the content of what was relayed, but completely clear about what to do with the information -- don't tell a soul and, by the way, sign this secrecy agreement, just to be sure.  I can hear it now: "Your brains or your signature are going to be on that paper..."  You'd hope that nobody ended up with a horse head in their bed -- this bunch of Republicans are so obedient anyway, probably not necessary.

[UPDATE: Or maybe some were coerced into submission. Check out this nugget from Zac Schultz at Wisconsin Public Television:
According to one lawmaker who asked not to be named, the logic they were given was the maps and the documents would be protected by attorney-client privilege, and the secrecy pledges were needed to protect that. But this lawmaker told me he felt part of the pledge was intimidation, to keep the rank and file from complaining. He was even shown two versions of the map, one more favorable and one less favorable, and was told if he didn’t go along, the less favorable version would become law. 
h/t: Blue Cheddar]

"Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room," the talking points pronounce ominously.  "Previously signed [secrecy] agreement applies to this meeting." Jesus Christ, what the hell were that talking about in there? What was so damn dirty about What They Heard In That Room that they had to move ahead of time to cover it up by pretending a meeting between legislators is entitled to the attorney-client privilege, just because it is taking place in a law office across the street?  If their chief public legal apologist Rick Esenberg is right about how much power they have to gerrymander and design their own future success through redistricting, given the sorry state of the federal and state Supreme Courts, what are they so afraid of? Sounds like a lot of guilty behavior for some awfully guilty people.

Imagine being soon-to-be ex-senator Van Wanggaard, carted into the room and being told that your friends in the leadership and law firm had eliminated all those icky minorities in the city of Racine and instead carved out a special non-urban area  in western Racine and Kenosha counties just for you. (My favorite nugget from the Craig Gilbert piece: "The one section of the city of Racine that's kept in the Wanggaard district is the one where Wanggaard lives." Precious.)  There you go -- from barely winning your "community of interest" Racine County district by 300-some votes in 2010 (and getting creamed in the forthcoming recall), you can come back in November and suckle yourself to all those creamy white breasts in those safe parts of two counties.  You don't even have to apologize for you and your party being such a bunch of pussies you have to run from a fair fight.  Of course you signed the secrecy agreement.  Maybe they'll even let you hang out at the law firm until you "win" "your" seat back.

So many interesting stories from so many formerly-secret meetings.  That sound you heard from the Capitol this week is 76 subpoenas hitting the doors of Republicans in the Assembly and Senate who are going to be asked all about this.  The chance of any of them honoring all that "the truth and the whole truth" crap is slim-to-none, but it's worth a try.  More interesting would be the discussions with the leadership and law firm about how to screw with the Democratic districts -- none of those legislators were invited to Michael Best for so much as a cup of coffee.

Speaking of Michael Best, the Republican law firm that has its mitts all over all three branches of the radical Republican jihad, James Rowen -- who writes the best chronicle of the Walker Horrors on the net -- wondered out loud this week whether Wisconsin lawyers might want to sign a petition to protest the creative legal stunts of the firm.  Well, as someone who represents people accused of sex offenses and homicide, I know that lawyers should not be known by the sins of their clients -- necessarily. On the other hand, isn't having your clients set up shop in the law firm in an attempt to avoid legal culpability (much less open records requests) how the mob does it?

No, Jim, no petitions.  But there is one interesting way available for the Wisconsin community of lawyers to show their contempt for Michael Best giving us all a bad name.  I got an blast e-mail from someone I know in Michael Best asking for the support of one of his partners who happens to be running for State Bar president in an election in April.  Both houses of the legislature, the governor, the Supreme they want the State Bar, too?

The guy's name is Bill White and his resume is fairly innocuous.  For all I know, they may have him up in an office somewhere, doing real estate work or something far away from the political circus his firm is hosting on another floor.  And, in 26 years in the Bar, I have never voted in a State Bar election due to complete lack of interest.

But, this time, I think I'm going to break that pattern and encourage others to do the same.  White's competition for the largely figurehead position is Patrick J. Fielder.  Interestingly, he was Tommy Thompson's Secretary of Corrections before he was a Dane County Judge.  He is now in another silk-stocking firm in Madison (there is a reason I don't vote in these things).  But, what the heck.  He's running against a guy in Michael Best, which is currently the prime legal mover-and-shaker in a state that is being moved and shook by a a bunch of out-of-control radicals.

Pat Fiedler for State Bar President!


Anonymous said...

The evaluation of the placement of the GOP staff @ MBF offices and the interplay of the memo in light of all the visits by legislators is an interesting and thoughtful analysis that hopefully gets more attention (along with where the computer that was logged on by the Fitz staffer who wrote the memo was located--how long it was open was some interesting data analysis).

Sounds like there needs to be a tunnel like to the Risser Justice Center from the capitol building to increase efficiency.

Anonymous said...

Jsonline has written recently how Sen. GlennGrothman, a (non-practicing) lawyer who happens to be far right leaning GOPer, is getting some pub for being a proponent of changing Wisconsin law to allow hearsay at preliminary hearings in criminal cases (which diminishes the rights of individuals--perhaps hearsay will be in at all trials in all instances next).

According to jsonline over the weekend, there has been some ongoing debate over CAPCOs, which appear to have continued support in the Assembly (JeffFitzgerald's campaign has apparently been a recipient of significant donations by supporters of that legislation-and one suspects the Senate led by ScottFitzgerald) but are adamantly opposed by SenGrothman who has gotten some pub due to that opposition.

It will be interesting to see if there's enough support for CAPCOs without Grothman or if he gets logrolled.