Somehow, despite cutting public schools and the UW system, borrowing to fund transportation, and decimating the Department of Natural Resources, the GOP found a way to fund a new and largely unaccountable Solicitor General with several new deputies, charged with using taxpayer money to fight ideological battles in court. Wisconsin Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin’s position showcases once again the wrong priorities Governor Walker and legislative Republicans have for Wisconsin.
The funny thing is that Wisconsin already employs attorneys within the Department of Justice (DOJ) that perform all of the duties Mr. Tseytlin is now executing. Adding a Solicitor General seems to be the height of inefficiency and wastefulness, so there must be another reason for its existence. The reason is this: It’s no secret that Wisconsin has become a laboratory for American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) policies – it’s now the Solicitor General’s job to pursue these policies in court, even if Wisconsin isn’t involved in the case or if the case is one certain to be lost.
Unlike special interest groups such as the NRA or WMC, the DOJ is not supposed to have a “single-minded” interest. The GOP is using the Solicitor General’s office to bring Wisconsin policy in line with other ALEC states, against the will of the people. Instead of representing Wisconsinites, the Solicitor General is representing the interests of Governor Walker, legislative Republicans, ALEC, and right-wing special interest groups.
So far, the Solicitor General has inserted himself several “high-profile” (i.e. important to the right- wing agenda) cases. Wisconsin, once a leader in environmental protection, is now involved in two suits against the EPA about the Clean Power Plan, one involving reducing carbon dioxide emissions and one involving reducing pollution in navigable waters. Other cases he’s taken on include the Voter ID case, drug testing FoodShare recipients, and Wisconsin’s admission privileges case. If you think your tax dollars would be better spent by not initiating frivolous suits or by submitting briefs in cases where Wisconsin is not a party, you’re not alone.
The DOJ is not designed to be an impact litigation firm. If they want to maintain their reputation as an agency that provides credible and sound legal information, the DOJ will rethink their political litigation. This is just another example of poor decision-making and lack of vision on the part of the GOP by spending mountains of money to bring unnecessary lawsuits that the state stands a good chance of losing.
Lastly, the people have a right to know how much these lawsuits are costing. That’s why I authored Assembly Bill 919 that requires DOJ to provide JFC a report of all civil cases in litigation, the amount of money spent on each case, and the amount of staff time spent on each case. It is the government’s responsibility to be accountable to the public, and this is the first step in making the Solicitor General’s office more transparent.