The New Politics of Judicial Elections

In this update: 1. Judicial independence under siege across Midwest, new report shows 2. Politicians strain to defend money chase 3. Reform meeting same fate as budget fix, Great Lakes protection The New Politics of Judicial Elections

Email date: 5/8/08

In this update:
1. Judicial independence under siege across Midwest, new report shows
2. Politicians strain to defend money chase
3. Reform meeting same fate as budget fix, Great Lakes protection

Our courts are in trouble, and a new report issued today by the national Justice at Stake Campaign and the Midwest Democracy Network makes it clear that the poisonous new politics of judicial elections is on prominent display in Wisconsin but also plainly shows the growing threat to fair and impartial courts is not unique to our state.

While the report focuses on what’s happening in five Great Lakes states, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor sees the problem cropping up all across the country and she was in Milwaukee yesterday to raise her voice in defense of an independent judiciary.

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There’s an article in today’s Racine Journal Times that was inspired by the Democracy Campaign’s review of campaign contributions from out-of-state donors. To the casual reader, the remarks from local politicians defending the practice of taking money from people who can’t vote for them might not make much of an impression. But a little digging to unearth the rest of the story puts their comments in a whole new light. That’s what the Big Money Blog we posted today is all about.

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It’s now been more than five months since Governor Jim Doyle called a special session on campaign finance reform. The session has yet to produce a thing. The reason is obvious.

The only comfort is that it’s not just democracy reform that has the Legislature paralyzed. Gridlock also has settled over the Capitol on what to do about the state’s $600 million budget shortfall. And some weeks ago, an agreement in principle was announced on the Great Lakes Compact, but the deal is not being brought to a final vote. There are now rumblings that the Legislature will not act to either fix the broken budget or protect the Great Lakes until after the November elections.