Thursday, February 23, 2012

How The GOP Undermined Its Redistricting Case

The case that began today in Federal Court in Milwaukee about the constitutionality of a GOP-managed bill that created new legislative district maps for the next decade pits allegations by Democrats and minority communities of politically-inspired and improper bill drafting against assertions by Republicans that the bill and maps were created fairly.

It has become known that redistricting work took place, though publicly-funded, in private attorneys' offices near the State Capitol into which GOP legislative leaders' staffers were moved, and Republican legislators who were invited to those offices to review maps and boundaries proposed for their districts had to sign agreements requiring them to keep quiet about what they'd seen seen.

Secrecy was paramount, as was strengthening incumbents' status.

The problem the GOP will have making the case that the mapping was not politicized is underscored in a June 21, 2011 email from Jim Troupis, one the GOP attorneys, written to staffers for the Assembly and Senate leadership about the redistricting work.

In the email, Troupis explained that he had been briefly unavailable in Madison because he'd been in Washington, DC: the email is one of dozens forced into public view by the Federal judges hearing the case who decided some email records had been improperly withheld by the GOP's attorneys during what is called "discovery" prior to the case finally being heard.

The forced disclosures show how far from Madison redistricting details were being delivered to certain partisans while being withheld from the public:

Wrote Troupis:

"I did meet with the General Counsel to the RNC and reported to him on this and other issues."
RNC is the Republican National Committee.

The bill and maps were made public weeks later.

Other documents forced out by the judges showed that former Republican Assembly Majority Leader Scott Jensen - - now a school choice advocate with a national conservative policy and funding organization - - was contacted about the process.

And additional emails showed that the drafters knew their proposed maps would disenfranchise tens of thousands of state residents when they were to be moved into districts without a regularly-scheduled State Senate election.


gnarlytrombone said...

There's are many obvious parallels with the way Republicans have approached all legislation, chief among them believing that secretive preparations followed by stonefaced, take-no-prisoners blitzkrieg is the way to accomplish lasting political goals.

As the attorneys in the Baldus trial brief point out:

"The [redistricting] legislation in Illinois provided a narrative explanation for the boundary choices made. The defendants there also offered a detailed rationale for those choices, including the explicit political considerations that significantly influenced some of them.

"Here, the testimony of the individuals who literally drew the boundaries enacted into law stated unequivocally that political considerations played no role...[leaving] no explanation for the extreme racial, geographical and population decisions the statue does reflect."

James Rowen said...

@gnarlyt: The Republicans are handing us a perfect frame for the Walker and Fitzgerald recalls - - if we are seeing it.

Max B said...

How many Democratic legislators were drawn out of their districts? How many Republicans?

illusory tenant said...

I see from Marley's update this morning that Jim "Carried ... feet first" Troupis met secretly with Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and Wisconsin Realtors Association, the two outfits that wrote certain provisions of the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Ethics which the Republican members of the Supreme Court adopted verbatim and, as it turned out when the provisions had to be revised, substantively sight unseen (not that at least one member of that Republican majority intends -- past, present, or future -- to abide by certain other provisions of the Code of Ethics). Quite the little pluto-oligarchy you have up there!