Partisans Arming Supreme Court Hopefuls

In this update: 1. Money trail exposes myth of nonpartisan judicial elections 2. Supreme Court candidates soon to become bystanders? 3. Casino corruption investigation snags top local official Partisans Arming Supreme Court Hopefuls

Email date: 2/13/08

In this update:
1. Money trail exposes myth of nonpartisan judicial elections
2. Supreme Court candidates soon to become bystanders?
3. Casino corruption investigation snags top local official

The Democracy Campaign today released an analysis that shows how far Wisconsin has strayed from the state’s longstanding tradition of nonpartisan judicial elections.

Judges are supposed to be accountable only to the law and the constitution, not political parties and special interests. But anyone who follows the money trail in this year’s Supreme Court race will have a hard time believing the winner won’t be answering to the partisans and the big interest groups. Recent polling done in Wisconsin by a top Republican opinion research firm for the national Justice at Stake Campaign shows the public already is deeply concerned about the impact of campaign contributions on the fairness and impartiality of judges.

Only 5% of state residents believe that campaign donations made to judges have no influence on the decisions judges make in the courtroom, while 78% believe they have a "great deal" or at least "some" influence. The way this year’s race is shaping up will do nothing to turn around this widespread public perception.

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Because neither current Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler nor his opponent, Michael Gableman, has so far shown any inclination to put significant sums of their own money into their campaigns, this year’s election is even more vulnerable to partisan and special interest influence than last year’s race, if that is possible. Even though the candidates are forced to rely on partisans to fill their campaign war chests, they still will very likely become virtual bystanders in their own race as special interest groups duke it out over the airwaves. Those ad wars won’t start until we get closer to the April election, but the signs of big special interest involvement are already visible. That’s the subject of our latest Big Money Blog.

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A fourth indictment has come down in the federal casino corruption investigation. This time it’s Kenosha County’s top local elected official who has been criminally charged. To read more on this, go here.