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Watchdog: Wisconsin Supreme Court Mired In Conflict of Interest

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PHOTO: The nonpartisan watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says the state Supreme Court is compromised because of so many conflicts of interest, mainly involving political campaign contributions. (Photo of Wis. Supreme Court Chambers courtesy of Wis. Court System)
PHOTO: The nonpartisan watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says the state Supreme Court is compromised because of so many conflicts of interest, mainly involving political campaign contributions. (Photo of Wis. Supreme Court Chambers courtesy of Wis. Court System)
 By Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI, Contact
October 27, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – The future of the now stalled John Doe probe into alleged campaign finance law violations by Gov. Scott Walker could rest with the state Supreme Court.

But Mike McCabe, executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, says four of the seven justices were elected because of ads run by the very groups under investigation.

"They're up to their eyeballs in conflicts of interest and there's no way the public could trust that they could deal with that case impartially, because they'd be dealing with three groups who played a huge role in getting them the job," he maintains.

The groups – Club for Growth, Citizens for a Strong America and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce – say they were merely exercising their free speech rights to run the ads.

But McCabe says the groups were the dominant influencers in the election of four of the justices.

"They outspent all the other groups combined,” he points out. “Most of the money spent for the campaigning that resulted in the election of these four justices was spent by these groups who are now known targets of this investigation."

It is not certain that the state Supreme Court will actually rule on whether the John Doe probe can move forward, but McCabe says it's a virtual certainty that nothing further will happen until after the November elections.

According to McCabe, the three groups under investigation have done all they can to delay and derail the probe.

"They have jumped through every legal hoop they can,” he stresses. “They have tried every legal maneuver possible.

“They have spent huge amounts of money on attorneys to try to make this investigation go away. They've thrown up obstacles everywhere they can."

The issue of the monetary conflict of interest in the state Supreme Court was uncovered by the investigative work of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

"We had to go out there and look at TV ad invoices and comb through IRS records to figure out how much money these groups had put into election campaigning and we were able to account for more than $8 million over the course of seven years that these groups spent trying to win state Supreme Court seats," McCabe says.


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