Party Lines Drawn in Supreme Court Race

In this update: 1. Partisans give big in "nonpartisan" high court race 2. The week in review 3. Gridlock becoming hallmark of modern politics Party Lines Drawn in Supreme Court Race

Email date: 2/1/08

In this update:
1. Partisans give big in "nonpartisan" high court race
2. The week in review
3. Gridlock becoming hallmark of modern politics

The latest campaign finance reports are in, and in the supposedly nonpartisan election for state Supreme Court the race is shaping up to be a highly partisan affair. Democrats are giving to Louis Butler and Republicans are giving to Michael Gableman.

Gableman’s support is coming from big business interests and GOP operatives, including the head of the state Republican Party. A total of 84 people have contributed to his campaign, and 20 of them account for 80% of his individual donations and 70% of his overall fundraising. Butler has 10 times as many individual donors, including quite a few Democratic elected officials and party stalwarts, but most of the 842 people who have contributed to his campaign are giving smaller amounts than Gableman’s backers.

Neither candidate is showing any sign of being willing or able to put large sums of their own money into their campaigns. That means they are unlikely to have as much to spend as either Annette Ziegler or Linda Clifford did in last year’s high court race. And that makes this year’s race even more vulnerable to special interest influence, which is really saying something considering the fact that Ziegler and Clifford both broke the previous record for candidate spending in a Supreme Court election but were still considerably outspent by special interest surrogates who sponsored their own campaign ads.

While there were no big surprises to be found in scanning the candidates’ campaign finance reports, we did find a couple of peculiar things. Those are the subject of today’s posting on our Big Money Blog.


The Democracy Campaign was invited to make a presentation to the new Government Accountability Board on our hopes and expectations for how the new agency will conduct its business. To read the suggestions we made at Monday’s meeting, go here.

On Tuesday, we testified before a Senate committee in support of a Clean Elections bill and another reform measure. To read our testimony, go here. It looks like more hearings will be held the week of February 11. Stay tuned.


If the state of state government could be summed up in a single word, that word would surely be gridlock. Reading the new book, Democratic Renewal: A Call to Action from America’s Heartland, it becomes clear that political paralysis is a condition on prominent display across the Great Lakes region. A commentary by the Democracy Campaign’s director that appeared in the Wausau Daily Herald offers some thoughts about what’s causing this affliction.