New Evidence of Politics Found in Gableman Burnett County Judicial Appointment

No Application File, Records of Interview Found for Gableman; Contributions from Gableman: $2,500, From Finalists Bypassed by McCallum: $0

MILWAUKEE — Recommendation letters obtained from the formal applications of candidates for the Burnett County Circuit Court judgeship former Republican Scott McCallum bypassed to appoint to current Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate and McCallum donor and fundraiser Mike Gableman include numerous references to the political consequences of selecting certain candidates.

Gableman also donated $2,500 in two separate contributions to McCallum’s campaign. Neither of the commission’s chosen finalists, Burnett County District Attorney Ken Kutz nor Polk County District Attorney Mark Biller made any contributions to McCallum, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

“Every new piece of evidence shows partisan politics are the reason Mike Gableman got his job,” said Scot Ross, Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now. “These letters urge Governor McCallum that the other two finalists would have been bad for the Republican Party. They were certainly less beneficial to his campaign account than Gableman was.”

No such records, including a formal application for the Burnett County position, have been located for Gableman, who bypassing the selected finalists from the Governor’s own Judicial Advisory Selection Committee. Choosing Gableman, McCallum ignored his own Executive Orders creating the selection committee process.

When a WKOW-TV reporter Friday asked McCallum “whether there were any other occasions when he ignored the selection committee and filled a judicial vacancy independent of the process, he did not cite any.” James Troupis, the committee chair, also acknowledged in Friday’s Wisconsin State Journal article that politics played a role in judicial selections at the time.

One of the recommendation letters obtained by One Wisconsin Now cites Kutz as previously having run on the Democratic ticket. “I personally do not think either Mr. Biller or Mr. Kutz will be positive for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, plus the appointment of either individual could have a potential negative effect on the reelection campaign of [then Republican] Representative Mark Pettis,” the letter continues. Its author also mentions he had spoken to the Governor at a fundraiser for Pettis on June 14, two weeks prior to McCallum’s interview with the finalist.

“Since there’s no record of Gableman’s application, interview or personal recommendations and no independent panel reviewed his qualifications, how did McCallum decide on Mike Gableman?” asked Ross. “Did he ever ask Gableman about how few felony jury trials he’s won, or why he abruptly quit as Ashland County District Attorney to take a much lower-paying bureaucratic job on the other side of the state?

Documents from the State Historical Society showed McCallum and Gableman met on more than one occasion in the months preceding Gableman’s selection. Gableman, who served as a McCallum fundraiser during the selection process, also organized a meeting at the Governor’s residence with officers in the Republican Party of Ashland County, where Gableman was Republican Party Chair.

Documents obtained by One Wisconsin Now from the State Historical Society and through open records requests are available at:

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