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Issue of the Week: Justices Sold to the Highest Bidder

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

Aug. 18, 2010
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A new report from the nonpartisan watchdog group Justice at Stake shows just how far Wisconsin has fallen. According to the report, campaigns for the state Supreme Court were among the costliest in the country. Total Supreme Court spending in 2007 and 2008 reached $8.5 million, second nationally.

And, what’s worse, these races were prone to influence by “super spenders,” groups that sway voters by underwriting ads that, typically, are misleading or ugly. According to the report, these “super spender” groups included Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), Club for Growth and Coalition for America’s Families on the right, which spent a combined $3.03 million on races from 2000 to 2009; on the left, the Greater Wisconsin Committee and Wisconsin Education Association Council spent $1.78 million in the same period. Not surprisingly, the deep-pocketed conservative groups’ candidates won—Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman. Both of them have faced charges of ethical violations and both of them have consistently voted in favor of their campaign backers, like WMC.

Fortunately, the Wisconsin Legislature passed an Impartial Justice bill this past session, which creates a publicly financed system for high court races. That won’t stop the “super spenders,” but it may help to reduce candidates’ constant race to raise cash.

Hero of the Week

Floyd Rowell

Floyd Rowell is an exemplary volunteer at the Alma Center, where men with a history of domestic violence or abuse can learn how to change their behaviors and relationships. Colleagues say Rowell is a great volunteer because of his positive attitude. Rowell had participated wholeheartedly in all of the Alma Center’s programs, so he will be able to serve as a powerful, effective mentor and coach. His presence alone is a huge inspiration to program participants, who have commented, “I want to be like Floyd.” Rowell, currently learning the basics of group facilitation, is on his way to becoming an excellent teacher.

For more information about the nonprofit Alma Center, call 265-0100 or go to www.almacenter.org.

Jerks of the Week

Scott Walker’s Campaign Aides

It’s bad enough that Scott Walker is lying to voters by claiming that he can stop a federally funded high-speed rail line from being built in Wisconsin. But to make things worse, his high-level campaign staffers promoted a race-baiting video clip to exploit long-held fears of conservative voters that trains benefit African Americans. Even worse than that? Walker’s aides couldn’t even deliver a straight apology. The Walker team’s conduct was so bad that Keith Olbermann made Walker’s top aide Jill Bader the “worst person in the world” on his MSNBC show on Monday—worse than the radically right-wing Glenn Beck.

Stephanie Findley, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Black Caucus, condemned the actions of Walker’s team, saying, “It would be nave to suggest that there are no racial overtones in the timing and the content of this communication by the Walker campaign. At best, it is tasteless and needlessly provocative. At worst, it recalls the coded racial program of division that has been exploited in the past. In either case, Scott Walker must apologize.”

As of this writing, Walker hasn’t apologized. We’ll keep you updated.


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