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Gableman Won the Election, But Will He Sit on the Court?

Citizen Action complaint could remove him

Apr. 9, 2008
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Just about everyone denounced Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman’s false, race-baiting attack ad against Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler—well, everyone except Gableman. Even Charlie Sykes called foul on it, and the bipartisan Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee declared that it was “unbecoming a sitting judge.”

Sadly, that sleazy ad—sponsored by the candidate, not a third party—may have provided enough votes for Gableman, who beat Butler in a close race on April 1. But the ad could also be Gableman’s undoing. Citizen Action of Wisconsin filed a complaint on March 18 with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, stating that Gableman’s ad violated rules for candidates for judicial offices. The rules state that candidates cannot make false or misleading statements about one’s opponent or knowingly confuse the public about the “proper role of judges and lawyers in the American adversary system.”

The complaint states that the ad “crosses the line” because it misrepresents the facts concerning Butler’s role as public defender for Reuben Lee Mitchell. What’s more, it used a split screen “meant to call upon racial prejudice of the voters and is well outside the bounds of ethical judicial conduct.”

The next meeting of the committee is April 23. Robert Kraig, program director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said the committee could discipline Gableman in a variety of ways, from reprimanding him to removing him from the bench. “A lot of lawyers have said, some publicly and some privately, that they think that this is a cut-and-dried case that this is a violation,” Kraig said. “The question is, what’s the consequence? There isn’t much precedent. A candidate for Supreme Court justice has never run an ad like this.”

All Campaign Funds Matter: The crack investigators at One Wisconsin Now have been having fun with the $5.2 million fine levied against All Children Matter, a right-wing pro-voucher group founded by Richard DeVos. The Michigan bazillionaire is the brother-inlaw of Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, whose private mercenaries are causing chaos in Iraq.

The Ohio Election Commission unanimously ruled that All Children Matter illegally funneled money into Ohio campaigns. As One Wisconsin Now notes, the group is under investigation by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board for violating campaign rules by advocating against John Lehman, who was then running for state Senate.

(Lehman won, despite the shenanigans.) One Wisconsin Now helpfully identified the top donors to All Children Matter and Wisconsin legislative candidates, which include the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame and George and Susan Mitchell of Shorewood.

Finally! A Conscience!: At least one member of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) has a conscience. David Wittwer, CEO of TDS Telecom, resigned from WMC’s board “for personal and philosophical reasons.” Wittwer made that decision known in a response to a TDS customer who’d been unhappy with Wittwer’s participation in the rightwing, anti-public-good lobbying group.

So why not ask other WMC board members to take a stand on the group’s interference in Madison and in campaigns around the state? Local directors include William R. Bertha of U.S. Bank, James D. Friedman of Quarles & Brady, Mark F. Furlong of Marshall & Ilsley Corp., Richard A. Meeusen of Badger Meter, Jack Michaels of Snap-on Inc., Joel Quadracci of Quad/Graphics, Larry Rambo of Humana, Thomas Spero of Deloitte & Touche, and James Ziemer of Harley-Davidson Inc.

Weekend Voting Proposed: With voter turnout on a national level usually at a dismal 50% or so, once again Sen. Herb Kohl is proposing that the tradition of holding elections on Tuesday, a workday, should be changed in favor of holding elections on weekends, when more people could get to the polls. But who knows? Perhaps a candidate who really energizes the electorate could get out the vote more successfully than any Election Day switch.

I-94 Plan Clears One More Hurdle: No surprise here—the Federal Highway Administration and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation found that the proposed expansion of I-94 is environmentally sound. But a coalition of groups is challenging that assessment, and argues that the extra traffic and pavement would increase pollution and harm the environment by filling in 56 acres of wetlands. In addition, it would harm kids—especially minorities and kids from low-income families—by dumping public money into more freeways. Public comments are encouraged.

Mercury Rule Should Be Tightened: The Sierra Club argues that the new mercury rule currently being revised by the state Department of Natural Resources doesn’t go far enough. The group says it exempts smaller power plants—about half of the plants in the state—and makes some requirements optional. The Sierra Club argues that Illinois is doing far more, in a shorter span of time, to reduce mercury emissions, and Wisconsin should adopt similar regulations. Public comments are welcome until April 14. E-mail jon.heinrich@wisconsin.gov or send a snail mail to DNR Bureau of Air Management, attn. Jon Heinrich, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.

MPS Isn’t Happy: On Monday, the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) announced that it settled a lawsuit over special education in Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee Public Schools district isn’t happy. The MPS board says it was a codefendant with DPI in the case, but DPI didn’t include them in all of the negotiations.

And when MPS asked for more time to discuss the settlement and determine its full impact on Milwaukee taxpayers, DPI balked. MPS says it’s committed to educating students with special needs, but the state should not have shouldered local taxpayers with an unfair financial burden.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com.


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