Ziegler Admits Guilt, Pays Fine

In this update: 1. Ziegler admits breaking the law, agrees to pay $17,000 2. National report sounds warning on judicial elections 3. State computer project coming apart at the seams 4. AT&T gets egg on face over lobbying ploy Ziegler Admits Guilt, Pays Fine

Email date: 5/17/07

In this update:
1. Ziegler admits breaking the law, agrees to pay $17,000
2. National report sounds warning on judicial elections
3. State computer project coming apart at the seams
4. AT&T gets egg on face over lobbying ploy

State Supreme Court Justice-elect Annette Ziegler admitted yesterday that she broke state ethics laws and agreed to pay a $5,000 fine plus another $12,000 to cover the costs of the state’s investigation into her financial ties and conflicts of interest.

Ziegler still faces a state Judicial Commission investigation prompted by a complaint filed by the Democracy Campaign. The Judicial Commission could recommend her removal from the bench.

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Wisconsin’s $6 million race for state Supreme Court is part of a larger national trend in judicial races, a new report shows.

In the words of retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, judicial elections are becoming "political prizefights where partisans and special interests seek to install judges who will answer to them instead of the law and the constitution."

The partisanship of Wisconsin’s recent high court race was underscored recently when Annette Ziegler was listed as a featured guest at a state Republican Party fundraiser to be held in mid-July, only two weeks before Ziegler is to take her seat on the state Supreme Court. The state GOP removed Ziegler’s name from the guest list after the arrangement caught the media’s attention. It’s been scrubbed from the party’s Web site, but we were able to retrieve the original posting about the fundraiser in Google’s cache.

What’s happening to elections for state Supreme Court prompted the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to editorialize this morning in favor of action on some much-needed campaign reforms.

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We hate to say we told them so, but.... As another outsourced state computer contract crashes and burns - this one with the Indianapolis-based firm Crowe Chizek - we can’t help but note that the Democracy Campaign raised concerns about the deal more than a year ago.

In that March 2006 report, we not only shined light on donations to Governor Jim Doyle from Crowe Chizek executives, but also contributions to the governor from the Chicago-based real estate company Equis Corporation. A top Equis executive was charged in federal court last week with soliciting a kickback on the sale of a state building.

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As we’ve reported in past E-Lerts and Big Money Blogs, telecommunications giant AT&T has been putting on a full-court press to win passage of a video franchising bill that would grease the skids for the company’s entry into the cable TV market in Wisconsin.

One of the tactics AT&T employed recently was to deliver three-ring binders to each state legislator full of lists of their constituents who supposedly support AT&T’s bill. The validity of the lists was called into question, however, when one state lawmaker who opposes the legislation noticed that her name is on the list.

Opponents of the cable bill are countering with their own petition drive.

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Our E-Lerts are now archived on our Web site, going back to the beginning of this year. To see past E-Lerts, go here.