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Wisconsin Assembly speaker defends free trip to London with lobbyists



MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is defending his free trip to London with lobbyists, travel said to have contributed to the resignation of his counterpart and close friend in Ohio.

Vos was among a group of lawmakers from several states who participated in the trip last August. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday that Vos said he followed ethics laws in accepting it.

Wisconsin ethics laws generally prohibit legislators from accepting valuable gifts but do allow them to accept travel expenses to go to conferences about official business.

The speaker of the Ohio House, Cliff Rosenberger, said this week he was stepping down amid an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that is reportedly looking at the four-day trip to England and other issues.

Vos said Friday that he had not been contacted by the FBI or other authorities or discussed any legislation with lobbyists on the trip, either during it or afterward.

Vos told the Journal Sentinel in an interview that he supported looser regulation of title lenders because they played a role serving people with no other access to credit.

“I had never met the people who operate LoanMax and I still haven’t,” Vos said of Select Management’s title lending business. “But I do think they have a right to operate.”

LoanMax has 16 locations around Wisconsin, according to its website. Select Management spent $96,000 on lobbying in Wisconsin last year, according to the state Ethics Commission.

Vos said his Republican caucus had considered making changes this session to rules for rent-to-own stores but not for title lending.

Over the past decade, Wisconsin Republicans have received $88,000 in campaign donations from the leader of a title loan company that paid for the trip. Campaign finance records show the donations from Select Management Resources chief executive officer Rod Aycox, his wife and other family in Georgia.

Vos had been one of several Republicans considering a run for the Wisconsin seat held by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, but announced Friday morning he would not run.