MADISON, Wis. -- Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature have signed contracts to pay attorneys representing them in a redistricting lawsuit a flat fee that could reach $175,000.
Documents released Wednesday show that one contract calls for paying attorneys with the law firm Kirkland and Ellis up to that amount for the filing of five briefs in the case that could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Taxpayers will foot the bill for the hiring of the attorneys.
Taxpayers have already spent more than $2 million to defend legislative maps that a panel of federal court judges ruled were unconstitutional. The judges sided with Democrats who argued the boundaries unfairly discriminated against them.
There are plenty of skeptics about Wisconsin Republican lawmakers willingness to redraw political boundaries by a deadline ordered by federal judges.
It's hard not to be skeptical, suggests Matt Rothschild from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, as redistricting done in 2010 was clearly meant to disenfranchise voters.
"It was the first time in US history that a federal panel had ruled that map drawing by a political party was so biased and so rigged that it amounted to unconstitutionally depriving people of their First Amendment rights," Rothchild told WIZM of the partisan gerrymandering.
The Republican legislature has been given until November to redo work originally completed in 2011. The hope is that it would be far more public because it was definitely not that last time.
"The public wasn't involved," Rothchild said. "The media wasn't invited in. Democrats weren't invited in. Even Republicans who were invited in the locked map room had to sign an oath of secrecy."
Republicans have hired an outside law firm to, not help with redrawing the maps, as they have so been ordered by the three-judge panel, but to help fight the federal judges' ruling on redistricting.
If it is appealed to the Supreme Court, and the ruling is affirmed, the NY Times reports it could upend the next round of state redistricting, in 2021, for congressional and state elections nationwide, most of which is likely to be conducted by Republican-controlled legislatures that have swept into power in recent years.
“It is a huge deal,” said Heather Gerken, a Yale Law School professor and an expert on election law told the NY Times. “For years, everyone has waited for the Supreme Court to do something on this front. Now one of the lower courts has jump-started the debate.
“If this were to be a nationwide standard, 2021 would look quite different, especially for the Democrats.”