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Supreme Injustice in Wisconsin

More bad news from Conservative Utopia. And in an ironic way it is too bad that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker quit his run for the presidency, or else this story would be getting more attention.

Part of why Walker never got any traction in his presidential bid is that his state’s economy has gone into the toilet under his command (especially compared to adjacent states with progressive governors). But a less well known reason is because he has repeatedly violated campaign finance laws (despite those laws being ridiculously lax).

Walker was accused of coordinating with a number of “dark money” groups, including several associated with the Koch brothers. These groups are supposedly charities, so they don’t have to disclose their donors, but are expressly prohibited from working directly with any candidates.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against the investigation back in July.

Never mind that two of the justices who ruled against the investigation had received large sums of money from the same dark money groups (in Wisconsin, Supreme Court justices are elected), and did not recuse themselves. Their decision even “legislated from the bench” (something that conservatives claim to abhor), allowing politicians to coordinate directly with special interest groups on “issues ads” as long as they don’t explicitly tell people to vote for a specific candidate, even though any coordination at all was previously illegal. Indeed, in 1999 then-Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox’s campaign was fined $60,000 for engaging in exactly the same type of coordination on issue ads as done by Walker (a majority of the court’s eight current justices served alongside Wilcox).

But now the story has taken another ironic twist. More evidence had come up against Walker, sending the case back to the Supreme Court. Of course, they ruled against the new evidence as well, but then they went one step further. They fired the special prosecutor for the case, Francis Schmitz. Schmitz is a retired US Army colonel and a former counter-terrorism prosecutor. At the same time, Republicans launched a campaign to discredit Schmitz, accusing him of being a “partisan investigator run amok” conducting a witch hunt against the governor. Which is pretty silly as Schmitz is a Republican, was appointed by Republicans, and even voted for Walker in the 2012 election.

Why did they fire him? Because it will prevent Schmitz from taking the case to the US Supreme Court, which would be the next logical step given the conflicts of interest on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. According to a respected former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, “To somehow remove the lawyer representing one of the parties after the opinion [has been issued] is extraordinary. It puts the case in a very odd situation, removing counsel so he cannot file an appeal.”

And in a dissenting opinion, a current justice said “The Special Prosecutor’s authority to proceed would still be intact if he had not brought a motion for reconsideration. Does this make sense? Not to me.”

The best part is the response from Schmitz to being fired. In a prepared statement, he said:

The miscalculation I made in this investigation was underestimating the power and influence special interest groups have in Wisconsin politics. My career in the military and as a federal prosecutor fighting violent criminals and terrorists did not fully prepare me for the tactics employed by these special interest groups.

UPDATE: Wisconsin seems to be dismantling its ethics laws.


One Comment

  1. wildwood wrote:

    Schmitz seems to have been very naive, (a kind way of putting it).

    Friday, December 18, 2015 at 9:00 am | Permalink