First, a big thanks is due to Jake of Jake’s Economic TA Funhouse for bringing this story to my attention.
According to a report by Bill Lueders, Republican Gov. Scott Walker has agreed to pay a private law firm up to $500,000 for legal services regarding his controversial budget repair bill curbing public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Gov. Walker signed the special counsel contract, which authorized payment to the Madison office of Michael Best & Friedrich at the rate of $300 per hour, a rate characterized as being “unusually high.”
The contract was signed on February 7, 2011, four days before Gov. Walker “dropped the bomb” that was his so-called budget “repair” bill, and the contract seems to have been awarded without any competition. It’s worth noting that Michael Best & Friedrich employees donated $37,000 to Gov. Walker’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010, donations that certainly seem to have paid off, given Gov. Walker’s decision to award that firm a $300 per hour, $500,000 no-bid contract.
To add insult to injury, signing the contract for Michael Best & Friedrich was attorney Raymond Taffora, who just a month earlier quit his job with the state attorney general’s office – and who also happened to be a contributor to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign.
Correspondence shows the governor on Feb. 4 requested legal assistance from the attorney general’s office in anticipation of litigation on the bill. The office declined, citing a lack of sufficient non-union staff with the necessary expertise. It recommended that the governor appoint special counsel.
According to Gov. Walker’s assistant legal counsel, the total billed to date to taxpayers of the State of Wisconsin by Michael Best & Friedrich is $96,215.
Another interesting fact about the special counsel contracts entered into by Gov. Walker is that while the contracts signed by Gov. Walker provide no explanation as to why the contracts are necessary, a review of the 23 special counsel contracts entered into by former Gov. Jim Doyle during his last two years in office shows special counsel contracts were promptly filed and routinely stated why the Attorney General was not involved.
Apparently Scott Walker believes he doesn’t need to provide any explanations when it comes to how he’s spending taxpayer money, as if taxpayers deserve to know what he’s doing with their money.