Sunday, July 8, 2012

Rigging the Judicial Commission- more WisGOP pay-to-play

Hey, who needs independence on the court benches? It's an antiquated concept.

Today's chapter of "GOPs rigging the system" involves former Assembly Speaker and two-time failed Congressional candidate Jon Gard giving recommendations to Gov. Walker on who to put on the state's Judicial Commission. Gard previously worked for Supreme Court Justice David Prosser (along with Kathy Nickolaus, Dave sure can pick some winners), and the state's Judicial Commission is charged with ethics complaints against judges, including Prosser's alleged choking of fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. Not surprisingly, competence was down the list when it came to qualifications for Gard and Walker.
Three of the five people Walker appointed to the state Judicial Commission earlier this year were presented to the governor by former Assembly Speaker John Gard, the president of Wisconsin Businesses Inc. and a former lobbyist for school voucher proponents School Choice Wisconsin.

Gard told an aide to Walker that he had found people for the commission who were "fiercely conservative" and "will never wimp out," according to an email recently released along with other documents under the state's open records law. Gard also wrote that he'd told one of the appointees "what we were looking for and (he) said he would do it if needed," but Gard's email didn't provide more specifics than that.

Walker's appointees won unanimous confirmation from the state Senate in March, but two Democrats who voted to confirm them said they were troubled by Gard's exchanges with the governor's office after being shown copies of them.

"The question that immediately popped in my mind (on seeing the email from Gard) is what did John Gard tell them they have to do?" said state Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton). "To me, it's aimed directly at trying to get rid of the whole Prosser issue."
Now put this together with the article Rebecca Kemble wrote in the Progressive 3 months ago, where she showed that several of Walker's Judicial Commission appointments not only donated to Walker, but 2 donated to Gard's campaign. Can you say "return on investment?" I knew you could. And another member of Walker's selection team for the Judicial Commission was Michael, Best and Friedrich's Eric McLeod, who had to step down after it was revealed he helped Justice Michael Gableman get free legal services.

But this is the way Republicans play- they try to rig the judicial system with ideologues that will allow them to get away their sketchy actions, and block legislative actions that could get in their way (much like how the U.S. Supreme Court has slanted the playing field with the Citizens' United case and then applied it to the states in the Montana follow-up case). These corrupt judicial figures then allow things to be FUBAR'ed so badly that it cannot be fixed with simple elections and new laws.

This type of corruption of the judicial system also serves to diminish public faith in governmental institutions, which then allows voter cynicism to sink in, making it easier to justify selling off public sector services to corporate interests (the ultimate GOP endgame- hence a voucher advocate like Gard working to get "his people" on the Judicial Commission).

It illustrates yet again why we need an independent civil service system more than ever in Wisconsin. With all of the hacks and corrupt jags this administration continues to appoint, the people need and deserve someone to work in the independent public interest more than ever. And when the people lose the protections of independent civil servants and judges, we end up in a hackocracy and spoils system that resembles the 1870s more than the 2010s.

We're close enough to the oligarchic Gilded Age in inequality and corruption as it is. I don't think we can stand a few more steps that direction, but that's exactly what the Walker Administration and the puppetmasters pulling their strings want to do. And that is why those of us that give a damn about clean, effective government should do anything in our power to expose and inform the public about the GOP's intentional destruction of functioning, fair government, and put a stop it.

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