Rep. Vos drops out of lawsuit over voter ID law after ethics complaints
Post by Emily Mills on 6/22/2012 3:53pm
Two state lawmakers have now dropped out of a lawsuit regarding voter ID legislation in Wisconsin after questions arose about how legal work being done on their behalf was paid for.
State Rep. Robin Vos (R-Burlington) announced late Thursday that he was withdrawing from the suit because the “initial guidance” he said he had received from the Government Accountability Board on his right to intervene had gone in a “different direction” with their final ruling.
Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer (I-Manitowoc), the other lawmaker who initially joined Vos on the complaint, dropped out earlier in the week.
Liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now filed a complaint with the GAB alleging ethics violations after both lawmakers refused to disclose to reporters who was paying the legal fees related to the filing.
It is against state law for elected officials to accept anything of value, including legal work, because of their position.
Shortly after inquiries from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, followed by OWN’s complaint, Ziegelbauer stated that he had asked for a review of whether or not they’d complied with state ethics laws.
“If there's any violation at all, I'll just be detached from the whole program,” he said.
The state Legislature has no record of payment for the legal work, which would mean the money was either coming from the plaintiffs--which include a Kenosha County supervisor and three private citizens--the representative’s campaign funds, or a third party.
The initial lawsuit was filed to intervene with a case brought by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin that challenges the state’s new voter ID law. The judge in that case ordered an injunction on use of the new rules after finding they violated the state constitution.
That case is just one of four that have been filed against the voter ID law, also called Act 23. One other judge has also blocked implementation of the photo ID requirements and other changes to voting requirements included in that law.
In a press release about the group’s complaint OWN’s Executive Director Scot Ross commented that they believed an investigation into the legal fees was still warranted, because “state ethics laws are crystal clear--it is illegal for elected officials to get benefits like free legal work because of their position. Rep. Vos apparently thought the rules didn’t apply to him.”
One of the two lawyers who filed the intervention on behalf of Vos and Ziegelbauer is from the firm Michael Best & Friedrich, the same firm that provided Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Mike Gableman with free legal advice, resulting in more ethics complaints. The firm has also been paid at least $400,000 this legislative session to help Vos and the Republicans draw the state's legislative boundaries.
A federal court ruled in March that two of the new legislative boundaries drawn in those maps were discriminatory and ordered that they be redrawn. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had filed an appeal of that decision with the U.S. Supreme Court but withdrew it last week.
The Justice Department also agreed to pay $185,500 to cover the plaintiffs’ legal fees in that case, “bringing the total taxpayer costs for the maps to more than $1.5 million.”
Emily Mills is Editor-At-Large for Dane101, as well as Editor of Our Lives Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, actor, and musician (drummer and singer in local band Little Red Wolf). Originally from several states up and down the Midwest Emily has called Madison home since 2000. Contact her at