Do you know whether your state legislators voted (or intend to vote) to protect the integrity, independence, and impartiality of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and its decisions? This brief article has answers.
A very widely supported, and obviously needed, closely targeted reform to our foul campaign finance system is the Impartial Justice bill (SB 171 and AB 250) that is now before the Wisconsin legislature. It would create a system of public financing of state Supreme Court elections. Every sitting member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court recognizes the need for such a law. That need has become shamefully obvious with the recent escalation in lavish “contributions” (from corporate, partisan, special interest, and out-of-state groups) to candidates for the supposedly impartial office of Supreme Court Justice. This bill was introduced every year for the previous five years, and the Republican leadership kept it from getting hearings or an up-or-down vote in both houses. That is, until this year, when SB 171 was finally voted on and approved by the (slightly) Democratic majority state Senate on February 19 by a whopping 23-10 bipartisan majority. Now it’s up to the citizens to convince the current leadership of the state Assembly to support (not sidetrack and kill) the Impartial Justice Bill, and see that it gets a public hearing and an up-or-down public vote in the Assembly.
Remember the Compassionate Care for Victims of Rape Bill, which finally got hearings and floor votes in both the Senate and Assembly in 2007 and 2008? Four out of five Wisconsin citizens supported this bill becoming law, and the final vote of all Wisconsin legislators passed it by more than two to one. That was how the legislators actually voted when they were finally given a chance to vote publicly on it, despite the obstinate obstruction for over five years by every single Republican leader of both houses of the legislature. (The leaders are elected by legislators from their own party, and the majority party sets the legislative agenda and controls all committees.)
Why did I digress into this tale of that crime victims’ bill? Because that entire “Clueless Clique” of six state Senators who voted against the bill to protect the rights of victims of sexual assault, were also among the “Tainted Ten” who voted against the Impartial Justice Bill (SB171). Here are the names of the ten who voted against the Impartial Justice Bill. The first six names (in bold type) are all the Senators who (also) voted against the Compassionate Care for Victims of Rape Bill. For what it’s worth, every one of the “Tainted Ten” claims affiliation with the Republican Party.
Scott Fitzgerald (13th dist. and minority leader of the now Democratic majority Senate)
Glenn Grothman (20th dist.)
Neal Kedzie (11th dist.)
Mary Lazich 28th dist.)
Joseph Liebham (9th dist.)
Daniel Kapanke (32nd dist.)
Theodore Kanavas (33rd dist.)
Robert Cowles (2nd dist.)
Alan Lasee (1st dist.)
These “Tainted Ten” Wisconsin State Senators want to continue to require state Supreme Court Justices to either be extremely wealthy, or to be dependent on somehow securing large campaign “contributions” from well-heeled “donors” and electioneering interventions by shadowy special interest and out-of-state front groups. Because without SB 171, that’s the only way someone can now become and remain a Supreme Court Justice.
All but one of the “Tainted Ten”, who stand against protecting the integrity, impartiality, and independence of the Supreme Court, represent nine contiguous senate districts in the eastern portion of mid and southern Wisconsin, from Door County right through to Walworth County. Those Senate Districts stick out like an embarrassing sore thumb. The rest of Wisconsin has it right. Let’s get with it.
Now is the time (M-F, 8:15 – 4:45) to call the Legislative Hot-Line (800-362-9472) or email your state Senator and your Assembly Representative and urge them to co-sponsor, support, and vote for the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s 5-step Power to the Voter program, especially the Clean Elections Bill (SB 182), which is step 2 of that needed reform package, and which includes the provisions of the Impartial Justice Bill. For a clear exposition of the problems and costs caused by government for sale, and justice for sale (instead of government and justice for the people) visit the non=partisan Wisconsin Clean Elections Coalition, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wisconsin Common Cause, the Wisconsin League of Women Voters, and the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.
It’s now up to the Assembly Republican leadership to decide (with our help) whether they are going to support the public demand for effective campaign finance reform, or whether they will again block a vote, and even any public discussion of it. Now that SB 171 has passes the Senate 23 to 10, your Assembly Representative needs to hear from you immediately. Urge him or her to press the leadership to allow SB 171 to get full consideration and an up-or down vote in the Assembly.
For a laugh and motivation, see this new video “shorty” from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign on YouTube about the difficulties that Justa Bill has in getting a hearing before the politicians while the rats, fat cats, and porkers hold the politicians in thrall.