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Supreme Cost for Supreme Court Race in Wisconsin

February 16, 2009

Madison, WI - On the eve of tomorrow's primary, here's the million-dollar question: Should it take millions of dollars to run for the state Supreme Court in Wisconsin? Mike McCabe with the nonpartisan watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says no. His organization's Judicial Independence Project is trying to raise awareness of how huge sums of special-interest money may be tainting judicial elections.

According to McCabe, the last two state Supreme Court races have seen millions of dollars in spending by both the candidates and special-interest groups.

"These groups want certain kinds of rulings. They are trying to buy the court and bend justice to serve their own purposes, and they're doing it in a most deceptive and misleading way."

McCabe says his group would like to see the Supreme Court elections reformed, including full disclosure of special-interest electioneering.

Groups that support unlimited campaign spending say the money is defined as "speech" and therefore is protected by the Constitution. McCabe counters that the special-interest advertising in the last two Wisconsin Supreme Court elections was clearly misleading.

"Voters were being told that what we should have are judges who will lock criminals up and throw away the key, but Supreme Court justices don't conduct trials and they don't sentence criminals. It's an appeals court."

McCabe says the amount of money it takes to get elected to the Supreme Court in Wisconsin has tainted the process.

"We shouldn't have a situation where a candidate feels a need to raise over a million dollars to run for state Supreme Court. That, I think, is representative of a broken system."

More information is available from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, 608-255-4260 and Interested citizens may download a petition from the website.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI