Monday, August 3, 2015

This weekend in WisGOP corruption pt. 2- Prosser's weak sauce

Speaking of John Doe, Supreme Court Justice David Prosser released a 12-page statement in recent days explaining his reasons for not recusing from the John Doe case, despite the fact that he was elected to his seat in 2011 with major help from the same organizations accused of violating campaign finance laws in that case. Matt Rothschild at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign responded to Prosser’s claims by calling them “exceptionally weak,” and notes that they go against the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Caperton v. A.T.Massey Coal Co., which said that elected judges must recuse from cases involving backers that “had a significant and disproportionate influence” in getting that judge elected.

Rothschild argues that Prosser’s history sure indicates that was the case, given that those accused in the John Doe case were responsible for funding and funneling the $3.3 million that was spent to help Prosser (allegedly) survive a challenge by JoAnne Kloppenburg. Oh, and that Prosser was allegedly working with those “independent” organizations during his campaign.
Prosser writes: “The special prosecutor alleges that two of the unnamed petitioners ‘were actively involved in the Justice Prosser re-election campaign, as exemplified by a November 17, 2010, email. The email reads in pertinent part: ‘We need to do a quick conference call at 2 PM tomorrow to discuss the Prosser race and his need for 1,000 low-dollar donors by year end.’ ”

Prosser also mentions an email that the special prosecutor cited that came from Prosser’s “volunteer campaign coordinator in Waukesha County to a staff member in Governor Walker’s office.” That email read, in part: “NOTE: Justice Prosser sent a letter to me and I thought you may wish to forward it if appropriate. I needed to get very creative with diverse state and National organizations to help his campaign” raise money.
In addition to the obvious corruption and self-interest that Prosser had in this case, Rothschild goes on to knock down Dirty Dave’s other arguments as to why he could still be allowed to judge the John Doe case.
Bad Argument #1: I Had No Choice But to Open Myself up to Corruption

Amazingly, Prosser concedes: “While it can be argued that independent communications supporting my campaign were ‘signficant and disproportionate,’ there was no alternative under Wisconsin law for people who believed I had done a good job and wanted me to continue.” In his letter, Prosser repeatedly claims that the Impartial Justice Act of 2009, which established public funding for Supreme Court candidates, invited spending by outside groups. As he put it, “The Wisconsin Legislature made this result inevitable.” Actually, the Impartial Justice Act was designed to prevent just the kind of bias and corruption that the special prosecutor was citing when it asked Prosser to recuse himself. Prosser also claimed that the Impartial Justice Act prevented him from responding to negative ads. “Wisconsin law provided no practical means for my committee to respond to the misrepresentations because I participated in a publicly funded campaign.” In fact, it allowed him to spend $400,000 of public funds to respond to negative ads or run positive ads. And as it was originally written, before federal courts invalidated this section, it allowed for public matching funds when a candidate was being outspent by outside groups. In any event, Prosser’s concession that he arguably benefited in a “significant and disproportionate” way from the outside spending of the groups under investigation by the John Doe prosecutor is a clincher. He is essentially claiming that he had no alternative but to open himself up to corruption.

Bad Argument #2: I was already a veteran of the court when the money was spent on my behalf.

Here Prosser tried to distinguish himself from the justice on the West Virginia State Supreme Court who wrongly did not recuse himself. That justice had not yet been on the West Virginia high court and was running for his first term when he accepted huge sums of money from the head of the Massey Coal company and then, when he got on the bench, ruled in the company’s favor. So Prosser writes: “Unlike the candidate in West Virginia, I had been a member of our court for almost 13 years before the expenditures were made.” But that makes no difference. You still can be corrupted by expenditures that have a “significant and disproportionate” influence on you being elected, whether you’re running the first time or the tenth time.
And yes, there are even more weak sauce arguments from Prosser to try to justify, each point of which Rothschild destroys in this column, summing up Prosser's act as "an embarrassment upon an embarrassment." Feel free to read up on it and pass it along.

Because people like Prosser are protecting crooks like Scott Walker, Wisconsin has become a full-on banana republic without the tropical weather, and there needs to have steps taken to stop it. This should come from the federal Department of Justice, especially when looking into the WEDC slush fund and other obvious pay-for-play with campaign donations, since new Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel cannot be trusted to prosecute GOP wrongdoing. This is because Schimel owes his career to the same money-launderers and corrupt GOP machine that Walker and Prosser does, and Schimel praised the Supreme Court's John Doe decision as "protect[ing] free speech."

It also needs to come from the people of Wisconsin, and yes, that includes the prospect of recalls for the "WMC 4" judges (which uncludes David Prosser). Even if some people don't want to see the "R" word again, you can't have an openly corrupt justices staying on the court making up partisan, absurd rulings like the John Doe that cripple the state's integrity, and deforms its democratic system.

I just hope it’s not already too late to fix the massive ethical and structural damage to this state’s institutions that people like David Prosser and the WisGOP machine have caused. And fixed they must be, if we ever want this state to be a place we can be proud of again.


  1. One possible outcome of Walker's WH run may be that a national spotlight continues to expose Wisconsin government's web of corruption/dysfunction. It operates on so many levels and Walker's at the center of it.

    Thanks, Jake, for staying focused on all the corruption. Banana republics do not seem to survive indefinitely. Good government could indeed emerge again in Wis. A girl can dream...

  2. Whoaaa there, maybe it used to be hard to see the bananas for the trees...but I think we're in a "Why Mar (Wisconsin)" republic. It's all connected...

    and by now the corruption that is has allowed such a stinking executive-legislative-judicial-corporate-money rat's nest to be built in our fair state smells so bad (like, all the way to high heaven) you don't need a national spotlight or even eyes to notice it. The stink overwhelms.

    Now, my question is, if the guv'na (Perry) and that other high-level office holder in TEXAS (Attorney Gen. Paxton) have both been indicted, why can't we indict our bad guys???