Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

What’s in your Supreme Court candidate’s wallet?


What’s in your Supreme Court candidate’s wallet?

Also, remember to support Scouting for Food

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

Tuesday, April 5, is the election for state Supreme Court. The incumbent, Justice David Prosser, is facing littleknown Madison liberal attorney JoAnne Kloppenburg.

This election is supposed to be the great experiment in public financing. Kloppenburg and Prosser each received $100,000 for the primary and $300,000 for the general election.

The candidates were also strictly limited in their fundraising. To qualify for the funding, the candidates needed to raise at least $5,000 but no more than $15,000 from 1,000 donors.

The idea was that the candidates could avoid the appearance of being linked to special interests. Some backers of public financing believed that amounts given to the candidates would be sufficient to keep out third-party advertising and improve the “tone” of the campaigns.

The verdict is in on public financing of judicial elections. It’s a complete failure.

The money given to the candidates is insufficient to run an effective statewide campaign. How much would it take? Much more than the taxpayers are willing to pay, and the candidate’s campaigns would only be hungry for just a little bit more.

Take a low-turnout election like your typical state Supreme Court election, mix in the relatively low name identification for the candidates, add in the importance of the court race to Wisconsin’s special interests, and if the candidate really expects to be heard above the noise, he or she will need to spend Senator Herb Kohl’s personal fortune.

All public financing did was take a relatively obscure challenger like Kloppenburg, who has no real qualifications, and make her equal with Prosser. The special interests the public financing was supposed to keep out of the campaign will do the rest for her. No wonder Kloppenburg defended the new system at a debate at Marquette Law School on Monday.

The Greater Wisconsin Committee, a liberal group based in Madison, is trying to question Prosser’s impartiality (so much for improving the tone of the campaigns) by tying Prosser’s record in the Legislature over 12 years ago to Gov. Scott Walker’s record in the Legislature over nine years ago. Kloppenburg has echoed that theme, showing the futility of hoping public money will somehow make candidates play nicer.

Making matters worse, we’re moving well beyond tying the candidates to special interests in this race. Kloppenburg’s whole voter turnout campaign hinges on one issue: Walker’s budgetrepair bill limiting some state employee union collective bargaining privileges. Kloppenburg should stamp “Public employee union manufactured” on all of her campaign advertising.

Meanwhile, the system practically invited third-party groups into the race by effectively preventing donations. Rather than being able to express support for Prosser or Kloppenburg, the donors are now funding ads that nobody knows who is paying for them.

Public financing is a failure that was easily foreseeable. Far better would have been to allow unlimited donations directly to the candidates so the public could judge the judges by the donations they receive.

The Republican Legislature would do well to end this public financing shell game, and they should do it in the name of transparency and free speech. The campaign finance reform fanatics will hate it, but they’re not planning on voting Republican anytime soon regardless.

* * *

Before I forget, it’s Scouting for Food time in the area of Hadfield Elementary School. Last Saturday, the Scouts from Cub Scout Pack 9 delivered bags to the doors of the homes in the neighborhood hoping that you will be as generous as possible in these hard times. This Saturday, they will be picking up the filled bags to take to the local food pantry.

Remembering that these are young children picking up these bags, please place them prominently so even a 9-year-old can find them. If by some chance the kids miss your house, please feel free to drop off the bag at the local food pantry yourself. Or you can e-mail me, wigdersoncolumn@yahoo.com, and I’ll make sure the bag gets picked up. Also, please watch out for the Scouts when driving through the Hadfield School area.

This is a nice charity event because it teaches the kids about giving back to the community while helping families in the Waukesha area. Plus it’s good exercise for the kids.

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