Sour Kraus: Advising the Butler Campaign
Time and again the WJCIC demonstrated blatant partisanship when they thought nobody was looking, despite Basting's claims to the contrary. More from the WisPolitics interview:
Ross: "Now obviously, all of you on the committee have an intense
interest in the race for various reasons. I mean, you guys are all in
law, so I assume there will be some personal feelings or political
allegiances one way or another. How do you put those aside when
you're judging these ads going from here through until April 1."
Basting: "Well, uh, first of all, when you say we're all involved in law
that's not correct, because there are more laypeople on this
committee than there are lawyers. And, if you take a look at the
make-up of the committee it is not dominated by lawyers at all, and I
specifically wanted it that way. I think it would be unwise to have
lawyers only on this committee, or to have a majority of lawyers on
this committee. Uh, we have asked all the members of the committee
to put aside their personal feelings about either candidate, it's none
of our business who our committee members will ultimately vote for,
that's why we have a secret ballot. Uh, and um, I don't think personal
likes, dislikes, or anything else are going to play any role in the
judgment of the committee members if and when we look at, or are
asked to look at, political ads."
Source: WisPolitics Interview 1/30/08
Apparently "Republican" WJCIC member Bill Kraus didn't get the memo.
Not only did Kraus openly express his personal disdain for individuals and organizations, but he took it upon himself to offer campaign advice to Butler and to try to coerce the Gableman campaign to comply with the committee's demands.
In a December 19th email regarding the Gableman campaign response to the WJCIC ruling Kraus takes a personal shot at Gableman consultant Darrin Schmitz and Wisconsin Club for Growth advisor, R.J. Johnson.
"Darrin is the legitimate child of the demon RJ Johnson an advocate
of wedge politics from whence all the trouble arises. A sharp poke
in the slats is my recommendation."
Source: Kraus email to WJCIC Members 12/19/07
On January 6th, Kraus advocates threatening the Gableman campaign with a public shaming if they don't return the signed pledge.
"We can, and should, make some noise if, as, and when the
promised pledge from Butler arrives and ask where his opponent's
Source: Kraus email to WJCIC Members 1/6/08
In a separate email, Kraus reiterates his desire to go after Gableman:
"If anyone in the press is attentive enough to ask the right question, it
will give us the opportunity to let them know where Gableman is
getting his bad advice."
Source: Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/8/08
On January 12, 2008, after learning the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) had released a video featuring Marquette Law Professor Rick Esenberg, Kraus offers advice to the Butler campaign, referring to the state chamber of commerce as the enemy:
"This seems to me to be a Butler campaign problem/opportunity.
Surely they are familiar with the enemies' strategy. If not, someone
can refer them to something that happened in 1978 when a
candidate was attacked by outsiders and used that to question the
motives and even the fact of their participation.
Butler can talk about the professor's oversimplifications and about
the megaphone supplied by WMC and take the boost that gives him
without mentioning his opponent. And, of course, he can also use
the platform this attack provides to talk about what the campaign is
really about and his own virtues.
Just a suggestion."
Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/12/08
Later Kraus reveals his mole:
"Bob Williams reports that he got a call from Gableman which gave
him the impression that he won't sign. Williams told him that he's
handing his opponent an issue that he shouldn't. Butler doesn't
have to attack or even criticize him; all he has to do is ask the
unanswerable question: Why isn't he signing?"
"Paranoia induces stupidity."
Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/21/08
Of course no repudiation of conservative principles would be complete without a thorough condemnation of talk radio, and this partisanship wasn't limited solely to Kraus.
When the Committee found out radio talk show host Charlie Sykes had been discussing the Club for Growth report on the committee's bias, Basting said
"I figure that if Sykes is criticizing us, we MUST be doing a good
Source: Bastings Email to WJCIC Members 1/4/08
Kraus followed up with;
"Replying to Charlie is the equivalent of getting into a pissing contest
with a skunk. I concede he has more power than he deserves,
particularly among Republicans. But obviously he doesn't get it that
we are trying to de-partisanize these elections."
Source: Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/4/08
A January 24th e-mail from Adam Korbitz spun Sykes' attacks as a positive:
"Also, for what it is worth, we were encouraged by other attendees
who stated that the withering attacks from bloggers and talk show
hosts are a good and positive sign that we are being taken seriously,
and we should feel good about that. That, and the fact that the
attacks have gained no traction in the legitimate press."
Source: Korbitz Email to WJCIC Members 1/24/08
But Kraus was not content to simply live and let live.
"A larger problem than Charlie is that the rest of the press seems to
be ignoring us."
"Someone - maybe me - should also question the advice he is
getting and even the mercenaries he's getting it from if he doesn't
take the pledge. Or something."
"What we have to become is a beat for the political reporters."
Source: Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/6/08
Still Kraus saved his best gem for last when discussing the problems associated with labels like moderate or RINO:
"Until and unless the true believers stop letting Charlie Sykes be the
GOP's gatekeeper we're just going to have to live with this. My only
suggestion is that we drop the 'moderate' label and adopt the
"libertarian" one to let Charlie and his followers know that we
regard their faith and sex lives as private matters and expect them to
Source: Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/25/08
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The Fox Guarding the Henhouse
The Wisconsin State Bar is a registered lobbying organization that seeks to influence legislation beneficial to its members. These new laws often come before the Supreme Court when challenged. Additionally the court decides on rules governing lawyer conduct in Wisconsin.
The State Bar employs five full-time lobbyists, and has advocated for the passage or defeat of over 74 bills this legislative session alone. Thus, the so-called "neutral" arbiters of judicial campaigns are really the Supreme Court's ultimate special interest, and its members make up the single largest contributor block to Louis Butler's campaign.
In his interview with WisPolitics, Basting notes that special interests are using campaign donations in hopes of tilting the court in their favor and he believes this can "impugn the neutrality of our courts and erode public confidence in them."
In 2005, the Wisconsin Supreme Court revisited the issue of medical malpractice caps on non-economic damages. In Ferdon v. Wisconsin Patient's Compensation Fund , the Court found that the state's statutory limit on "pain and suffering" damages violated the equal protection provision of the Wisconsin Constitution. Justice Louis Butler, having recently joined the Court, joined with the majority in the Court's 4-3 opinion.
Later in 2005, the Legislature sought to remedy this decision by enacting new caps it believed the Court would find constitutional. 2005 Assembly Bill 766 set non-economic damage caps of $450,000 for persons age 18 and older, and $550,000 for persons under 18.
The State Bar of Wisconsin lobbied against this bill. In a lobbying activity filing with the ethics board, they said, "Caps on non-economic damages run counter to the right of obtaining justice 'completely and without denial.' In addition, caps on non-economic damages place an unnecessary hardship on the most seriously injured."
Given the State Bar's lobbying effort against caps on non-economic damages and Justice Butler's vote to eliminate those caps, does anyone actually believe that Louis Butler isn't the preferred choice of the Wisconsin State Bar?
Tom Basting is fond of saying "judges have no constituents." Yet the State Bar does. Ones with a great deal of money.
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