CHEYENNE (April 1, 2019) — Less than three months after leaving the governor’s office at the end of his second term, Matt Mead today announced he is opening a new law office in the capital city.
The former governor and Peter Michael, who served as the state’s attorney general for the past five years, will be senior partners at Mead, Michael & Associates (MM&A). They both appeared at a news conference in front of the Capitol Building. Mead said despite the cold weather and snowy forecast, he chose the location because he missed it after working there for eight years.
MM&A will use its partners’ vast expertise in suing the federal government to represent corporations and people who have claims against the feds, Mead said. While people’s ability to sue the federal government is limited by sovereign immunity to certain cases under the Federal Tort Claims Act, he noted, corporations like Hobby Lobby — even though they are people, too — sue the feds all the time for many reasons.
“We all know that the federal government has run amok in recent years in its effort to regulate and micromanage American businesses to death,” the former governor said. “Peter and I will provide a one-two punch against federal overreach and vigorously represent industries, even if it appears on the surface that their cases are unwinnable.”
The Mead administration began its long pattern of suing the federal government right out of the gate. Its first official action in 2011 was to join two dozen other states in challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
While the states lost their lawsuit, Mead noted the plaintiffs still got their money’s worth when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Medicaid expansion was not mandatory under the law, even though it was an essential element if Obamacare was to succeed. Mead and many other Republican governors and lawmakers said no to expanding Medicaid. As a result, about 17,000 of Wyoming’s working poor — and millions nationwide — fell into a “Medicaid gap” and could not get health insurance, even through Obamacare.
“It wasn’t everything we hoped for,” Mead explained. “Still, we were able to keep the issue in the public’s eye, and show our base of supporters that we were willing to sacrifice anything and anybody if it meant keeping the fight against Obamacare alive.”
“The U.S. House has had 299 votes to repeal the law so far, with no signs of stopping,” he added. “So I guess the lawsuit did its job.”
Even though the GOP-led state legislature approved Medicaid expansion in 2015, Mead vetoed the bill and three others just like it during his second term. It wasn’t until last month, after Mead was out of office, that the program’s expansion finally received state approval. The Wyoming Health Department estimates the state lost $300 million, but Mead said he expects Wyoming will ultimately come out ahead when the feds finally renege — as he expected all along — on their promise to pay at least 90 percent of the cost.
In addition to the ACA, the primary focus of the state’s legal team under Mead and Michael was to sue the Environmental Protection Agency. The state filed about two dozen suits against the federal agency during his first term, but with hard work managed to triple that number during the past four years.
Asked how many cases the state actually wound up winning, the former chief executive said it’s difficult to say. “We did lose some, but we’ve got so many still in the pipeline that it will be years before anyone can say with certainty how we did,” Mead said. “It’s not whether you win or lose that’s important, it’s how many times you sue the feds that counts, and we set a record for suing the EPA that should stand forever.”
“Our residents didn’t want us to back down one inch to an overreaching federal government that wanted to protect our environment,” he added. “Thank the Lord for the courage he brought us, we didn’t.”
A reporter asked Mead if he saw any irony in the fact he represented the federal government for several years as its top prosecutor in Wyoming, but is best known for his lawsuits against his former employer, whom he plans to continue suing.
“No,” he said. “I do not.”
Mead said he expects his new firm to be busy once it’s fully staffed, and he is now in the process of hiring a dozen attorneys in various specialties. A full contingent will be at the beck and call of the energy industry, but Mead said at least one would be dedicated to representing gays and lesbians in divorce proceedings.
Mead was a staunch opponent of marriage equality during his first term, and he even ignored the U.S. Supreme Court and the Constitution in 2014 after the justices decided not to hear the appeals of five states that had their gay marriage bans overturned by lower courts. Included in that decision was the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Wyoming.
The next year, same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. At that time, Mead admitted he should have seen the trend coming, and not spent more of the state’s money to fight gay marriage from becoming the law in Wyoming.
“We probably should have dumped the issue,” Mead said. “But hindsight is always 20-20, and it was a matter of supporting the religious beliefs of many Wyomingites who voted for me. How could they trust us, or have enough confidence in us to hire our firm, if we had backed down?”
A journalist asked Mead if he saw any irony in the fact that his law firm will benefit financially from representing gays and lesbians in divorce cases and custody battles, even though he didn’t accept marriage equality until the bitter end.
“No,” he said. “I do not.”
Mead said several major organizations have put MM&A on retainer, including its first client, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a controversial group that prepares far-right model bills and sends them to state legislatures. ALEC is best known for promoting voter ID and “stand your ground” self-defense laws.
Mead appeared at several national ALEC events during his two terms to blast federal overreach, and was named the group’s “Governor of the Year” in 2016 and 2018.
Mead said he will be happy to represent ALEC in court, though he quickly added, “Not that they’ve ever done anything wrong. You know, they don’t even really lobby lawmakers, no matter what the ACLU says.”
A man passing by stopped and asked Mead if he ever regrets the state’s role in any lawsuit, like the time he directed Michael to defend the state’s executive branch against Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill back in 2013. She sued to get her authority returned after Mead signed Senate File 104, effectively kicking her out of office for a year until the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.
“No,” he said, as he looked up at the sky and saw snow begin to fall rather heavily. “I do not. But I do regret not having this press conference inside. It’s chilly out here.
“Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have some lawsuits to file.”