Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Unfinished Business 3: Law Enforcement Elections

By Bill Kraus

Judges are elected in non-partisan [in quotes] spring elections in Wisconsin. As partisan organizations and their money made an appearance in these contests on the indisputable premise that it is cheaper to buy influence with four Supreme Court justices than with 50 members of the state assembly, a law was passed to fully fund those elections with public money [inadequately but admirably] which was important and to provide public money to offset and discourage campaign spending by third party organizations of all stripes and colors, which was essential. This innovation got its inaugural run in a campaign which coincided with the winter of riotous Wisconsin which was set off by Act 10. It’s inaugural run turned into a referendum on Act 10 instead of a contest between judicial candidates. Everything and everyone was demonized in that tumultuous moment, including the fledgling Impartial Justice law. The governor and the legislature offhandedly cut off the crucial public money in the wake of that election and the law died in the delivery room so to speak.

Another Supreme Court election looms. There is no Act 10 hanging in the balance, but the possibility that this election will be less about the candidates and more about a philosophical fight between a couple of monied outsiders with a score to settle looms.