#TBT Eight Million Reasons Four WI Supreme Court Justices Must Recuse in Walker-John Doe Case

Club for Growth, WMC Spent Overwhelmingly on Behalf of Four Justice Conservative Majority

A reminder from April 14 of how four of seven Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices owe their current elected position to the millions of dollars in spending in their races by the Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce. Gov. Scott Walker has previously asked the appeal of the Peterson ruling go directly to the state Supreme Court.

We noted at the time, it was odd that Gov. Walker’s campaign intervened, given that it caused him unnecessary headlines. Our belief is that if Club for Growth or WMC made the request, this glaring conflict of interest given their spending would be the subject of intense media scrutiny.

One might wonder if coordination continues, given that Gov. Walker jumped in on this with the confidence no one else would file, which is odd since Club for Growth has filed on everything else.

MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Now has filed a formal letter with the seven justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, urging four of the court’s justices to recuse themselves from a legal request by the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker related to the ongoing John Doe investigation surrounding allegations of illegal coordination between Republican-aligned groups during the recall of Walker. In its letter, One Wisconsin Now writes that two of the groups reported by media to be involved in the investigation, Club for Growth (CfG) and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), financed over $8 million in spending to elect the four justices, who constitute a conservative majority on the court.

“Involvement of a party, like Club for Growth or Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce that has spent substantial sums to elect the judge or justice hearing their case results in the appearance of bias if not actual bias,” wrote One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross.

The letter notes that both the Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce were extremely active in the Supreme Court races in support of each of the most recent electoral efforts of Justices Annette Ziegler, Michael Gableman, David Prosser and Patience Roggensack. The four were elected to 10-year terms in campaigns from 2007 to 2013.

According to figures compiled by the non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign:

  • CfG and WMC spent a combined $7.3 million in support of those four justices’ campaigns’ for the Supreme Court. In addition, $985,000 was spent by Citizens for a Strong America on behalf of the 2011 campaign of Justice David Prosser. A review of CfG’s 2011 Internal Revenue Service 990 form shows that CfG contributed $4.6 million to Citizens for a Strong America – the organization’s entire operating budget.
  • In all four cases of these justices’ election campaigns, the percent of spending by these two entities was a substantial portion of the support these campaigns received. A Wisconsin Democracy Campaign total of the spending on behalf of Justice Prosser, including his own campaign, showed that spending of CfG, WMC and the CfG-financed Citizens for a Strong America, provided 75 percent of the $3.5 million in spending on behalf of Justice Prosser. If the public financing grant obtained by Justice Prosser is removed as “spending,” this figure leaps to a jaw-dropping 85 percent. 
  • A similar review of spending on behalf of Justice Michael Gableman, shows a similar and stunning lopsided percent from CfG and WMC. These two entities provided in excess of 70 percent of the $3.2 million spent on his 2008 election campaign to the court.

Ross said, “Gov. Walker repeatedly said he would cooperate with investigators, but facing re-election, he is trying to get the conservative majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to derail the investigation. There is an $8 million weight on the scales of justice if the conservatives on the court move forward to shield the very entities that put them on the court.”

The full text of the letter, sent Monday, can be viewed at http://bit.ly/OWNCrtLtr.

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One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.