Weiss was experienced in dealing with special government districts, having represented the Milwaukee Brewers and the Green Bay Packers in the debates that led to creation of Wisconsin's two stadium districts. Beitzel said Weiss and his firm had volunteered their expertise on the issue for free since the 1990s.
In his memo, Weiss said his draft would require a referendum to create the airport authority because "it will be easier to win the referendum than to persuade the County Board to transfer the airports," referring to both Mitchell and Timmerman airports.
Someone wrote "NO," "state create" and "no elected officials" in the margins of the memo and the draft. Beitzel said he didn't know who wrote those comments. But the referendum was deleted from subsequent drafts, which called for the Legislature to create the airport authority without County Board or voter consent and with no elected officials on the authority board.
The Weiss drafts may have played a role when Stone took up the idea in early 2005. E-mails between Stone aide Marsha Dake, Legislative Reference Bureau attorneys and Dana Lach, another Foley & Lardner attorney, suggest Lach and Stone had updated the last Weiss draft and sent it to the bureau as drafting instructions for the airport authority bill. Lach then worked with state attorneys as they drafted the bill, the e-mails show.
Lach said it was her firm's policy not to comment on client matters. Stone said it was common for outside interests with special expertise to be involved in drafting bills.
Among those who saw the first Legislative Reference Bureau draft in October 2005 was Carol Skornicka, senior vice president for corporate affairs at Midwest Airlines. She misread the draft and warned MMAC lobbyist Steve Baas e-mail that it would give the County Board the power to create the authority.
"Good catch," Baas replied e-mail. "That would clearly be a problem."
In an interview this week, Baas said the MMAC wanted the state to create the airport authority because "our goal was to get it done," and that was "the most efficient way to do it."
Skornicka still thought in January that the legislation would put the County Board in charge of creating the district. In a Jan. 3 e-mail to Baas, she wrote, "Getting this through the Legislature will be a piece of cake compared to getting the County Board to establish the district! We need a couple of champions on the County Board asap to prevent an anti-district movement from building up steam."
Those champions never emerged. Later in January, 17 of 19 supervisors signed a letter opposing the idea.
Spinning off Mitchell Int'l Airport to a regional authority has long been a priority of local business leaders, who say Mitchell is a regional economic asset, not just a county service.
A public brawl has erupted over control of Wisconsin's busiest airfield: Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport.
The idea faces significant legal and political hurdles, but little-used federal legislation provides an opening for local governments to experiment with airport privatization
The legislation would make it easier for the airport district to obtain money, through loans or by selling bonds, for capital projects by lifting out-of-date dollar limits.