Republicans Sign Blanket Confidentiality Agreement

This is an interesting story.

Under Republican lame-duck laws limiting Kaul’s authority, he is required to seek approval from the Republican-controlled legislative budget committee to settle a number of lawsuits. But Republicans, up until their announcement on Thursday, had been unable to agree on a procedure for doing so.

Kaul on Tuesday told committee members they would each need to sign confidentiality agreements to review and approve the cases he brought to them. But all lawmakers objected to doing so for different reasons. The unprecedented saga this week has tested how the lame-duck laws will work in practice.

The blanket secrecy agreement is meant to ameliorate concerns from lawmakers over signing individual nondisclosure agreements.

“This action should resolve the Attorney General’s confidentiality concerns, and he should send over all of the relevant settlement information for review,” Darling and Nygren said in a statement. “The Committee stands ready to review and approve any settlements that are in the state’s interest.”

It’s unclear whether the agreement passes legal muster. Kaul in a statement said the department is assessing the proposed confidentiality agreement.

“We will continue attempting to reach agreement on this issue, as we began attempting to do more than six months ago,” Kaul said. “Our interest remains in ensuring that Wisconsinites are represented as effectively as possible and that the enforcement of our environmental, consumer protection, and other laws is not impeded by partisan gamesmanship.”

On the one hand, I understand Kaul’s concerns. He is litigating cases where his office is bound by confidentiality agreements and it is in the best interests of Wisconsin to keep things confidential until there is a resolution. By extending the circle to include legislators, he wants them to be bound by the same confidentiality requirements. This is particularly an issue because politicians are notoriously leaky – particularly when they believe there might be a political advantage in leaking.

On the other hand, the Attorney General works for the state and the legislature sets the rules. The legislature passed a law requiring the AG to include them and the AG, by forcing this requirement, is refusing to comply with the law. Kaul doesn’t have the legal authority tp refuse to comply with the law without a confidentiality agreement.

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