I really, sincerely, hadn’t planned on writing a lot about the current Supreme Court race in Wisconsin. But the stench has just gotten too thick – I can’t help but comment. I’m like one of those idiot criminals who shows up at the police station because they offer a free honey ham, then gets arrested. I just can’t help but get suckered in.
The other day, I wrote that because liberal Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson was in the lead, you weren’t hearing all the calls for campaign finance reform that you normally would if a conservative were running strong. It appears I may have spoken a bit too soon, as I underestimated the ability of the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram to twist the story to their liking. This appeared on the same day as my post:
At a forum addressing judicial campaign financing in Eau Claire last week, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Director Mike McCabe pointed out the similarities in education (the same law school), professional experience (circuit court judges) and legal temperament (self-described “judicial conservatives”) between Koschnick and Gableman. Yet Gableman was able to defeat an incumbent Supreme Court justice last year while Koschnick is considered a long shot this year.
McCabe says the likely difference in electoral outcome has to do with dollar signs, and it’s hard to disagree with him.
Yes – who could disagree with such air-tight logic?
Or, it could be the fact that Shirley Abrahamson has spent 30 years on the court, as opposed to Louis Butler’s 10 minutes. Perhaps they forgot that Butler had lost an election (to Diane Sykes), but was then installed on the court by Governor Doyle when a vacancy opened up – essentially overturning the results of the election. Sometimes voters bristle at being told they’re not smart enough to pick their judges. Regardless, I think the fact that Shirley Abrahamson has become an institution in Wisconsin government might have just a little to do with her electoral strength.
Furthermore, it was because of the Butler/Gableman race that Abrahamson switched tactics, portraying herself as “tough on crime,” and “protecting our families.” This was a lesson Butler was slow to learn – and it may have cost him his seat. Abrahamson immediately recognized that her left flank was exposed on the crime issue, and tried to fortify it up front. (A year ago, I suggested she release a video of her chasing down and clubbing a burglar in her campaign commercials – oddly, my advice went unheeded.)
In fact, the goo-goos have it exactly backward. They believe Koschnick is a longshot because he had trouble raising money. In reality, it’s the other way around – Koschnick had trouble raising money because he’s perceived by conservatives as a longshot. And this isn’t because he’s a bad guy or a terrible judge – the groups that normally help conservative judges didn’t think he had a legitimate shot at beating a Supreme Court justice that joined the bench before man had invented utensils.
But this displays the desperation of the campaign finance reform crowd – when there’s a race where the candidates spend too much, money is the problem. When there’s a campaign where candidates spend too little, money is the problem. They seem to think they’ve got it surrounded – when in fact, there are a hundred things that explain what’s happening more clearly than merely campaign finance.