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Wisconsin John Doe Court Ruling Shows Incestuous Side Of Politics And The Justices

July 16, 2015

It goes without saying the two most severe problems with our political system is the way redistricting has a made an out-right joke of political boundaries and the volumes of money that can be raised and spent in campaigns for public office. Many have correctly noted that if we could get a handle on these two issues much of the dysfunction within our system could be reduced.

That is why it was sad—though not shocking—to learn of the ruling from the Wisconsin State Supreme Court regarding the John Doe probe into Governor Scott Walker’s recall election practices.   The court ruled that the governor’s campaign and conservative groups had not violated campaign finance laws.

There was much evidence to support a continuation of the probe that sought to illuminate the money being raised and spent by outside interest groups in that election.   The fact these groups were working in concert with the Walker campaign should trouble anyone who can lift their head above the partisan muck.   This battle should be viewed from the perspective of what constitutes good government as opposed to the latest needs of any political party. Sadly, that is not the case when it comes to conservatives.

The ramifications of this ruling quite literally means that the wall of common-sense and good government that should separate a campaign from issue-advocacy groups has been reduced to a meaningless pile of nothingness that will no longer reduce one of the major problems within our political system.

The cozy relationship between those seeking an elected position and those bankrolling the campaigns was most obvious with this ruling.   The very groups that were being investigated in the probe were also responsible for large cash infusions into the conservative justice’s elections—the same justices who wrote today’s decision.

That is simply appalling and unacceptable. There is no way to defend such practices!

I know that conservatives are popping champagne bottles over the ruling. But if anyone is needing proof of the incestuous nature of what is happening to our government need look no further than public records to understand the problem.

One of the most public and troubling mouthpieces of political conservatism in our state is Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. They along with others such as the Wisconsin Club for Growth have collectively raised and spent more than $8 million for such luminaires on the state court as Justice Michael Gableman.

The only thing that qualified Gableman for money from conservative groups was he was deemed likely to follow the political needs of their party. Time and again he certainly has done that. But in so doing he has not demonstrated any judicial competency. This ruling written today by Gableman is simply disrespectful to the law and is outright galling.

The conservative interest groups that were reportedly at the heart of the John Doe probe and who made donations to court candidates have certainly made sound investments. But the people of this state who deserve far more from their elected officers are the ones who have come out on the short end of the deal.

Earlier this year I read Marcia Coyle’s The Roberts Court where a large segment of the book dealt with money in elections.   She pointed out the legal rulings that require a justice to step aside from a case where one of the parties is a central component to a justice’s election to the bench.  Yet the conservative members of our state court who were bought by special interest groups showed no allegiance to ethics when it came to deciding the case about Walker’s campaign tactics.

What values and rules our government should operate under regarding John Doe probes and election campaigns took a severe beating today as if one of the Sopranos from the HBO series was throwing the punches.  There is nothing the vast majority of state residents can feel good about from this ruling.   The Wisconsin we knew in 2010 is being ripped apart and replaced with something I hardly recognize.

  1. tom permalink
    July 17, 2015 3:59 PM

    Actually, Deke, my point is that if the DA (and the two justices who wanted to continue the probe) is a partisan hack whose campaign was paid for by lefty interests (not to mention his wife who draws her self esteem from the same) that is one thing. If the judges on the Court who ruled in favor of ending the probe are partisan hacks whose campaigns were paid for by conservative interests, that is another thing. Since money equally corrupts, all we have left is the law and the premise that government shall make no law to limit or abridge the freedom of speech.

    For example, you write: “The cozy relationship between those seeking an elected position and those bankrolling the campaigns was most obvious with this ruling. The very groups that were being investigated in the probe were also responsible for large cash infusions into the conservative justice’s elections—the same justices who wrote today’s decision.” What we don’t see here is criticism of the justices who voted the other way. Wouldn’t the same argument apply to them?

    You want to suggest this is an issue about campaigns when it is really an example of the use of the institutions of government–the D.A. and his powers–to attack political enemies.

  2. Tim Rozwadowski permalink
    July 17, 2015 2:52 PM

    I hope all you legal scholars of free speech and corporate citizenry will toast when democrats are back in power. They will be. There is ample money on the left and more importantly Latinos, African Americans, Women, Young People and a few Old Men like myself. Good Luck fat cats your day of regret is coming.

  3. July 17, 2015 8:48 AM

    I think what the Wisconsin Supreme Court was saying in the John Doe 2 free speech case was that prosecutors “must be cognizant of where you put your graspers. That method is good at getting heart, lung, liver … so you don’t wanna crush that part. You want to basically crush below, crush above, and see if I can get it all intact.” Could you pass the chianti, please?

  4. July 17, 2015 8:34 AM

    The presumption must always favor free speech over government regulation of that speech. The John Doe 2 witch hunt is evidence of how depraved the progressive impulse is to prevent the Great Unwashed from sifting and winnowing for themselves.

  5. July 16, 2015 11:51 PM


    You have demonstrated with your comments on this matter over money and our election process time and again that if one does not stand for something one will fall for anything.

  6. tom permalink
    July 16, 2015 8:50 PM

    If your really cared about money– Who gave contributions to John Chisholm? Who contributed to the two justices who voted to continue the probe? Why didn’t they step aside. themselves? This argument about money is a tepid and dull argument. Things didn’t go the way you want, so you assume it must be corruption. We all get it.

    The ruling clearly followed the SCOTUS rulings.

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