MADISON, Wis. — In an opinion column co-authored by then lawyer and now state Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly, the high court hopeful opined that judges should be able to lie in their campaigns and benefit from misleading third party attack ads against their opponents. One Wisconsin Now Deputy Director Mike Browne noted Kelly’s column fits a pattern of deceit that has emerged in his brief judicial tenure.
“Dan Kelly wrote that it’s fine for judges to mislead the public and to benefit from dishonest ads in their campaigns before he was appointed as a judge,” said Browne. “On the bench and in his campaign he’s shown he believes what he wrote.”
Kelly’s missive, written in 2008 with his current court colleague Rebecca Bradley and two other conservative attorneys, was in response to the effort of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee to keep candidates from producing, or benefitting from others, misleading and underhanded campaign advertising. Just weeks after the article was published, conservative Supreme Court candidate Michael Gableman ran an outrageously racist and misleading television ad against his opponent, resulting in ethics charges that he violated the Judicial Code of Conduct with his actions.
In the article, Kelly and his associates opined, “… the pledge will force candidates to choose between exercising their free speech rights as they see fit and facing a possible scolding by the committee” and that “Vigorous public discussion and debate will be stifled.”
Browne noted in his campaign and on the bench, Kelly has been less than forthcoming with the public on multiple occasions – seeking to scrub years of controversial blog posts from the internet after being appointed to the court and hiding the support of an extremist groups that want to outlaw all abortion and most birth control and threaten doctors, nurses and others with felonies for providing abortions.
Kelly has also raised questions about his commitment to keeping corruption out of the courtroom by opposing efforts to strengthen rules for judges on when they should remove themselves from cases because of conflicts of interest. The current standards were adopted in 2010 by a conservative court majority and were literally written by special interests that spent millions of dollars to help elect them. The lax current standards are also supported by a right-wing group with whom Kelly has regularly sided while on the bench and whose board of directors contributed over $14,000 to Kelly’s campaign in the last six months of 2019.
“Conducting campaigns with integrity need not be chimerical, but it will take a commitment from candidates to be honest and forthright. Based on his writings and actions it seems Dan Kelly is not that guy,” Browne concluded.