Feb 20 2013
Wisconsin is known for cheese, but the amount of cheddar rolling into the Wisconsin Supreme Court elections is crazy. It’s no secret that the money pouring into judicial elections across the country is breaking records. The 2012 judicial election cycle marked a banner season for spending, and states with off-year elections aren’t about to buck the trend.
In the run up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court primary election, the three candidates had collected nearly $300,000 among them. That’s a lot of dough
for a primary that was expected to turn out less than 10% of Wisconsin voters. In just over a month, incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack raised almost $200,000. Challenger Ed Fallone raised $75,000. Challenger Vince Megna lagged way behind. He didn’t raise any money in January. The Wisconsin primary took place yesterday, February 19. Mr. Megna didn’t make the cut.
Now that we’re heading into the real deal election, things are going to get serious. This is going to be one of the most important judicial elections in Wisconsin history. “’It’s going to be huge,’ says Megna of the role of money in the race. ‘This is probably the most important election [in years]. The winner controls the court. If Roggensack wins, the four-conservative majority stays in place. If she loses, the four-conservative majority is gone.’”
State Supreme Court justice is a nonpartisan position, and both Fallone and Roggensack have advertised their impartiality and eschewed political ideology. But with the political leaning of the court at stake, money will be pouring in, not to back the best candidate, but to bolster the donor’s favored ideology. The conservative group, Wisconsin Club for Growth, started airing pro-Roggensack ads before the primary to augment the candidate’s campaign.
At every level of government, the party divide seems to have gotten deeper, and the stakes of each election have gotten higher. Courts have become a political battleground. Partisan money flowing into judicial elections undermines the process and the court. Things are starting to stink…and it isn’t the cheese.