FILE - Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul

There is a lot of finger pointing at the Wisconsin Capitol over who is to blame for a stalemate in settling lawsuits against the state. 

Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, on Tuesday told lawmakers that he wants to settle an unnamed lawsuit, but is required by law to first obtain confidentiality agreements signed by legislators as well as signed legal agreements they will not talk about the case. That's how Kaul is interpreting a new state law that requires the attorney general to get permission from the legislature before ending or settling lawsuits. 

Republicans approved the law back in December as a counter against Kaul withdrawing Wisconsin from a challenge to Obamacare. Kaul pulled the state from that lawsuit during the few weeks when the new legislation was in limbo. 

Now, Republican lawmakers are accusing the attorney general of being openly defiant. 

“Attorney General Josh Kaul has gone from refusing to follow state law to now actively undermining it," state Sen. Alberta Darling said in a statement. "It is unnecessary to require legislators to sign a confidentiality agreement when they have agreed to keep information confidential in closed session."

Darling, R-River Hills, is one of the top Republicans on the state's all-powerful joint finance committee. 

For his part, Kaul said there are 12 lawsuits against the state that are "in limbo" because of the new law and how it impacts settlements. 

Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee Executive Director Katie Iliff blamed Darling and the Republicans for playing politics last December, and creating problems this year. 

"We continue to see how Sen. Darling’s lame duck power grab has created more secrecy, chaos and confusion," Iliff said. "Because of [Tuesday's] inaction, the state is at risk of losing out on settlement funds. It is clear that Sen. Alberta Darling is more concerned with political power and partisan gamesmanship than doing what is best for Wisconsin.”

Darling, however, fired back and blamed Attorney General Kaul for any chaos or confusion. 

"We recognize the sensitivity of these issues and wish to work with the Attorney General, but signing a confidentiality agreement is a nonstarter. The fault lies at the feet of Attorney General Kaul who is once again attempting to undermine the law," Darling added. 

Staff Writer

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.