Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is refusing to release an $850,000 contract Republican lawmakers drew up with a law firm to help them defend legal challenges to legislative district boundaries.
Citing attorney-client privilege, Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer refused to release the contract to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She did not immediately respond to a request for the document from the Wisconsin State Journal and declined to answer questions about it Monday.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported on the denial Monday. Assembly Republicans had hired the Chicago-based law firm Bartlit Beck to help defend the GOP-drawn boundaries in a long-running federal lawsuit.
Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel had been representing the state in the case but lost in the Nov. 6 elections to Democrat Josh Kaul. Now both Kaul and the Bartlit Beck attorneys will defend the maps.
Wisconsin Freedom of Information President Bill Lueders said he believed the denial of the newspaper’s request is illegal.
“If the public is being expected to pay this bill, it has every right to see the agreement,” Lueders told the Journal Sentinel.
Vos’ refusal to release the contract comes as a longstanding legal battle over the state’s redistricting plan looks poised to begin another chapter.
A panel of federal judges ruled in 2016 that the state’s redistricting map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and ordered new districts to be drawn in time for the 2018 election. But the U.S. Supreme Court changed gears in June, putting the order on hold after finding a group of Democratic voters who were plaintiffs in the case lacked standing to sue.
Still, in an unusual decision, the high court sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. Now the group of plaintiffs have amended and re-filed their suit, which could go back before a judicial panel as soon as this spring.