Charlie Pierce had a good mention of this on Friday, but I wanted to give you in the rest of the country a little more background on the Wisconsin GOP's lengths to conceal information regarding the state's redistricting after the 2010 elections.
As many of you know, Wisconsin Republicans swept into power in 2010, with Governor Scott Walker taking office and the GOP taking both houses of the state legislature, as a result, this allowed them to control the redistricting process, and they locked Democrats out of the process, and held very few public hearings once the maps were revealed in Summer 2011. What they did still has not been brought completely to light, and events of this week illustrate why that is so, and why it has potential to do major damage to the GOP not only in Wisconsin, but nationwide.
A court filing on Thursday indicated that Republican staffers had deleted hundreds of thousands of files relating to the 2011 redistricting of Wisconsin. The accusation by Wisconsin Democrats was backed up by forensics expert Mark Lanterman, who has been tasked with trying to restore the information that was withheld from the original redistricting suit that allowed most of the GOP's shenanigans to remain in place. Lanterman's report shows that this wasn't a random boo-boo.
The largest volume of deletions occurred on “Sen Republican WRK 32864”. Hundreds of thousands of files (but likely less than one million) were deleted from “Sen Republican WRK 32864”on July 25, 2012. The deletions were performed by a user logged into the system as “tottman.” The files deleted include indexes, data tables, database files, and other files that appear to be associated with mapping software. The database files appear to have been created in June 2011. Among the deletions were files in folders titled “AB9Backup,” “AB9Plan,” “LegendBMPs,” “Plan Backups,” “Matrix Backups,” “Reports,” and “Saved Matrix.” These deletions do not appear to be related to any routine maintenance of the computer, because folders containing similar data but with different names were not targeted for deletion.Well, Mark Lanterman won't say it, so I will. It's obvious that these files were being used by Republicans in their redistricting scheme, but they didn't want the courts to see what they were thinking, so they're trying to to hide them and avoid court orders to turn them over. You wouldn't delete the files in one place and save them in another if you weren't trying to do that.
8. Evidence of deletions in 2012 also appears on “ASM Republican WRK 32586,” although the number of files deleted is less than that of “Sen Republican WRK 32864.” Among the items deleted was a folder titled “Draft Plans for Printing,” as well as its subfolder titled “Hispanic amendment” and all of the folders’ contents. This folder was created on January 6, 2012, and then deleted less than one minute later, by a user logged into the system as “afoltz.”
9. I have recovered a sample of ten of these deleted documents. The documents appear to be the same or similar to non-deleted documents that I located in a folder called “Projects,” located on the desktop of the afoltz user account....
10. On that same computer, “ASM Republican WRK 32586,” I have recovered four million deleted master file table (“MFT”) entries. The MFT is like a table of contents for the hard drive, tracking files by name, date, and location. When a file is deleted, the MFT entry associated with that file is also deleted. Thus, my recovery of four million deleted MFT entries would ordinarily signal the deletion of four million files. However, some of the deleted MFT entries reference files that still exist on the hard drive. In my experience, this is unusual. The only other time I have seen such a pattern is when data were deleted and then restored from a backup; the restoration brings back the file itself, leaving the deleted MFT entry.
It's also worth remembering that the redistricting scheme was cooked up outside of the Capitol grounds, in the Madison offices of Michael, Best and Friedrich, with the idea that the GOPs "believed the process they used granted them attorney-client privilege that would keep their communications from being disclosed publicly." That argument went down in flames in January 2012, and the Republicans were ordered to turn over their communications related to the new maps. And among the key Legislative aides that were involved in the map-making at MBF were "afoltz" - Adam Foltz, an aide to then-Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald - and "tottman" - Tad Ottman, and aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
And the Democrats who made their own filing to coincide with Lanterman's findings note that the dates Foltz and Ottman had their deletion party was not coincidental.
On January 3, more than a month before trial, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ request to reconvene the depositions of Messrs. Ottman and Foltz and Joseph Handrick. It again ordered those witnesses to “produce documents in their possession that have been requested by the plaintiffs.” Order (Dkt. 104) at 10. Plaintiffs’ counsel conferred with the legislature’s counsel on January 6, and the legislature produced additional documents on January 10 and 11. The January 6 deletions occurred just after the Court’s order and just before the legislature’s supplemental production. And they occurred on computers in Michael Best’s offices.Ruh roh. And did I mention that Foltz has already testified that the new maps didn't take political implications in mind when they were done? I already said last year that this guy's looking at prison time for that perjury, but refusing to comply with court orders and deletion of evidence is a whole 'nother level of law-breaking. Hope THAT was worth it, Foltzie.
Questions about the legislature’s document productions arose immediately after the close of trial. See Mem. in Support of Post-Trial Mot. for Remedial Discovery (Dkt. 253) at 8-11. On July 18, 2012, after majority control of the state senate shifted, the new majority leader requested Michael Best’s redistricting file. The following day (July 19), Michael Best agreed that it would make its redistricting file available for review. One week later (July 25), a user logged into the account of Tad Ottman, aide to state Senator Scott Fitzgerald—who just had been replaced as majority leader—deleted hundreds of thousands of redistricting files. The following week, Michael Best turned over its redistricting file to the new senate majority leader.
But as I like to say about WisGOP, not a lot of things with these guys are coincidental, and they come from the top. Let's face it, if you know what youngster GOP leggie aides are like these days, they are some of the biggest toolbags you can find - remote-controlled dopes who need an instructional manual to figure out what words to use on a press release. With that in mind, did I mention that former Wisconsin GOP Chair and current RNC Chair Reince Priebus is a former Michael, Best and Friedrich lawyer, and wanted to make sure Sean "from the Real World" Duffy and other WisGOP Congress members could be protected. And did I also mention that his college roomate Robin Vos was very interested in what the maps would say, since it was probable that Jeff Fitzgerald and Vos had worked out an agreement that Jeff Fitzgerald would run for U.S. Senate, and Vos would move up to Speaker if the GOPs maintained their majority after the 2012 elections (which they did)?
Hilariously, Vos is quoted in the State Journal article on the latest developments as saying "he was not in leadership during the time in question and referred questions to attorneys handling the case." RIIIIGHT. The guy known around the Capitol as "Boss Vos" with a newly-installed spiral staircase in his office to have a centralized office of WisGOP communcations and "policy research" had no hand in what was going on in a redistricting that would help him cement power? If you believe this, then....you probably believe that Scott Walker had 5 personally-hired aides breaking the law in Milwaukee County without his knowledge, either. I may have been born at 10:02pm, but it sure wasn't last night.
Given what Lanterman describes in his filing, he's been able to get back a lot of these files that Foltz and Ottman thought they'd gotten rid of, and given that the findings are due on May 10, we'll find out what's in those soon enough. But given that the only thing that Republican socipaths seem to understand is power and money, the only suitable punishment to stop these people are to THROW THE MAPS OUT (to take away their undeserved power) and make the aides and the bosses who gave the orders GO TO JAIL for such flagratn defiance of court orders and state open records laws.
This is definitely going to blow up. It's just a question of how high up it'll go. And if the national media wants a good "off-year" scandal, this may be one they might want to look at, because it could be a good one.