New Ethics Enforcement Agency Taking Shape

In this update: 1. Nominations to new Government Accountability Board announced 2. Business-labor campaign giving gap getting noticed 3. Upcoming ruling on McCain-Feingold law exposes judicial myth New Ethics Enforcement Agency Taking Shape

Email date: 6/7/07

In this update:
1. Nominations to new Government Accountability Board announced
2. Business-labor campaign giving gap getting noticed
3. Upcoming ruling on McCain-Feingold law exposes judicial myth

The Government Accountability Board that will replace the state Elections Board and Ethics Board is one step closer to reality, as Governor Jim Doyle yesterday announced his nominations to head the politically independent ethics enforcement agency created by the special session ethics bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor on February 2.

The nominees – all nonpartisan retired judges as required under the ethics law – must be confirmed by both the Senate and Assembly.

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The report the Democracy Campaign released last week documenting a wide gap between the campaign giving of business interests and labor unions is a featured story in this week’s Milwaukee Shepherd Express and also was the subject of statewide radio coverage.

It also is the subject of a commentary posted Monday on the Big Money Blog. An interesting postscript to this blog, which makes a passing reference to the head of the state Democratic Party lobbying for AT&T, is that the day after our blog was posted Joe Wineke made it known that he is giving up his lobbying role for the telecommunications giant.

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Another blog posted Tuesday deals with the decision that is coming soon from the U.S. Supreme Court on Wisconsin Right to Life’s challenge to the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold law.

The blog refers to a commentary on how the case will in all likelihood serve as an apt illustration of the limited usefulness – and even the deceptiveness – of the labels that get slapped on judges nowadays.

The term "udicial activist" has become a dark mark for judges, but it is a description that in truth offers exceedingly little insight into the political ideology, legal philosophy or even the temperament of a judge. Judges of every ideological stripe are "activist" on some issues and "conservative" on others, depending on how they feel about past court rulings.

Let’s hope that with their newfound freedom to discuss their legal views and share their personal opinions on issues, future judicial candidates will get beyond superficial slogans like "judicial activist" and "strict constructionist" and give voters something far more substantive to go on. Don’t count on it, though.