Newly released bills show that Wisconsin's legal battle over redrawing voting boundaries to favor Republicans cost taxpayers $2.1 million, or $200,000 more than was previously reported.
The state paid $1 million to a legal firm to help defend the new voting maps in court. Other expenses included $443,000 to plaintiffs who successfully challenged changes to an aspect of the new boundaries, and $431,000 to a different law firm for its work drawing the maps, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Peter Earle, one of the attorneys who sued the state over the maps, called the $2.1 million cost "absolutely ridiculous."
"It is a capricious misuse of public resources for an absolutely perverted purpose," he said.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said every round of redistricting brings sizable costs because of partisan disputes over where the voting boundaries should be drawn. He also blamed the expense on the groups that sued over the maps.
"The fact the liberal special-interest groups sued us added to the cost," he said.
States redraw new legislative and congressional districts every 10 years to account for changes in population. Because Republicans controlled the Legislature and governor's office in 2011, they were able to draw lines that will help them significantly in elections for the next decade.
A group of Democrats and an immigrant-rights group sued the state over the maps. A panel of three federal judges ruled last year that two Assembly districts on Milwaukee's south side were drawn to separate Latinos and weaken their voting bloc. Those districts had to be redrawn, but the rest of the maps were allowed to stand, keeping the GOP advantage in place.
Now that the case is over, the total costs can now be tallied. The $2.1 million total includes one unusual expense: A criminal defense attorney was paid $26,000 to represent Capitol aide Adam Foltz in the late stages of the litigation as the plaintiffs raised concerns about the failure of the Republicans to turn over records in the case.
In an April deposition, Foltz said he "retained counsel as an individual" after the plaintiffs told the court they were seeking $100,000 to pay the cost of examining state computers. The plaintiffs sought the hardware after they discovered some emails that should have been turned over to them but weren't.
The examination of the computers revealed that several documents had been deleted, but state officials denied wrongdoing. That disagreement was resolved in a settlement.