The Center for Media and Democracy filed suit last month against Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and the Department of Justice for refusing to disclose public records related to his high-profile legal war against the Affordable Care Act.
In February, Schimel and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit, joined by 18 other members of the Republican Attorneys General Association, designed to do what Congress couldn’t: kill the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The suit seeks to strike down the law’s mandatory coverage for preexisting conditions, the ACA’s most popular provision.
Scott Walker supported filing the suit, even though he claims also to support providing affordable coverage for preexisting conditions. Walker punted during Friday's gubernatorial debate when asked specifically how Wisconsin would provide such coverage if the ACA is dismantled.
Schimel's Democratic opponent Josh Kaul said he will drop the suit if he's elected on Nov. 6.
If successful, Walker and Schimel’s suit against the ACA could result in 17 million people losing their health insurance. Just as they did before the ACA became law, insurance companies would reject applicants with preexisting conditions — or jack up their rates.
Congress attempted to repeal and replace the ACA in 2017, but ultimately could not muster the votes in the Senate. The Republican Attorneys General Association's legal effort to abolish the Obama administration's law, also known as Obamacare, aims to succeed through the courts at what GOP elected officials failed to accomplish in Congress.
With the Supreme Court's striking shift to the right under Donald Trump, it appears likely that suit to abolish the ACA's mandate for preexisting coverage ultimately will prevail.
The Center for Media and Democracy submitted an open records request on Aug. 3 for internal records and communications from the offices of Attorney General Schimel and the Solicitor General regarding the ACA. CMD limited the request to records between Jan. 1 and Aug. 3.
On Aug. 20, the DOJ identified 1,940 relevant emails, but denied CMD’s request outright by claiming it would be “excessively burdensome” to review and redact them.
“Schimel’s case against the Affordable Care Act is of significant public interest. Why he would deny the public information about this controversial suit, which may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, is unknown. But the citizens of the state deserve answers,” said CMD executive director Arn Pearson.
“Wisconsin’s Open Records Law has a strong presumption of public access,” said Pines Bach attorney Christa Westerberg, who is representing CMD. “The Department’s denial is a burden on the public’s right to know on a matter of obvious public concern.”
Two of RAGA’s top donors, the billionaire Koch brothers, have spent hundreds of millions on the ACA repeal effort since the law was enacted. Koch Industries has contributed close to half a million to RAGA over the last year and a half and $10,000 directly to Schimel’s reelection campaign. RAGA, in turn, has pumped $44,000 into Schimel’s campaign.
“It is puzzling that Attorney General Brad Schimel, the man who created Wisconsin’s Office of Open Government, would deny a reasonable records request that clearly meets the criteria of Wisconsin’s Open Records law,” said David Armiak, a researcher with CMD.
Schimel has been heavily criticized for using Wisconsin taxpayers' money to join dozens of lawsuits that have little or no connection to Wisconsin and are chiefly designed to further Republican causes.
Read the complaint here.
See analysis of Schimel's record here.
See also: Letter from dozens of former Assistant Attorneys General opposes Brad Schimel’s bid for reelection as Attorney General