• WisPolitics

Monday, March 31, 2008

 9:38 PM 

Butler raps Gableman for running a "nasty campaign"

MILWAUKEE -- Justice Louis Butler berated Michael Gableman for running a "nasty campaign" that he said demeans voters and the integrity of the court in a conversation with reporters in Milwaukee this evening.

"He's been running a very nasty campaign, a campaign that's unheard of in Wisconsin State Supreme Court history," Butler said.

He said that voters expect candidates to run campaigns that uphold the integrity of the court and that candidates should run on their record, experience and approach to the job.

"What we've got is somebody whose willing to do anything to try to win a seat on the supreme court," Butler said. "That's not the way to run."

During his stop, Butler thanked a group of about 20 volunteers at a union office building near West Allis for making election-eve calls today on his behalf. Earlier, Butler visited Madison, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Racine.

Butler criticized Gableman for ads he has run, saying his ads were worse than the ones outside groups have ran. In contrast, Butler said all the ads he has run were positive and that he's asked groups airing negative ads on his behalf to take them down.

"I hold that office in high regard and I will not compromise my integrity or the integrity of the office just to win an election," Butler said. "I think it's very unfortunate that my opponent has chosen to go that route."

-- By David Wise


 6:40 PM 

Gableman continues to tout law enforcement credentials

MILWAUKEE -- Michael Gableman continued to talk up his support from law enforcement during a stop here Monday afternoon, thanking various groups, including the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association and the Wisconsin Fraternal Order of Police.

Waukesha District Attorney Brad Schimel also attended Gableman's stop.

Gableman said he decided to barnstorm the state today to "work as hard as I can to share my judicial philosophy and my background and my message with as many people across that state the best way that I can."

Gableman said that he wants to show the stark contrast between the two candidates. He referenced his past work as a prosecutor and his opponents work as criminal defense attorney.

"I believe that judges are not legislators and should not oppose there own agenda on the law," said Gableman.

Gableman has spent much of the campaign promising to be a judicial conservative while accusing Butler of being a judicial activist who legislates from the bench.

Gableman was also in Wausau and Green Bay.

-- By Samantha Hernandez


 5:27 PM 

Outside groups register more than $500,000 in independent expenditures

Outside groups had registered more than half a million dollars in independent expenditures with the state by this afternoon, with 85 percent of that going to support Butler.

The WEAC PAC had the largest expenditure registered at $249,325, with the majority of that going to a TV buy. The Greater Wisconsin Committee listed an independent expenditure of $96,858, while Planned Parenthood had one for $939. That totaled $447,122 in pro-Butler expenditures.

The NRA Political Victory Fund registered $73,458 for a mailing to support Gableman, while the Volunteers for Agriculture, the Farm Bureau's PAC, registered $3,766 for ads in three publications supporting the judge. That totaled $77,224.

The Center for Advocates PAC had a $1,292 independent expenditure for multiple candidates, including Butler, while the Kenosha AFL-CIO Political Donation Fund registered $1,000 for an independent expenditure that also mentioned Butler among multiple candidates supported.

Two groups that registered their intentions to make independent expenditures in the race hadn't reported any spending yet.

One is the Milwaukee Police Association PAC, which planned to support multiple candidates, including Butler.

The other is the Citizens to Defend the Constitution, a group dedicated to electing Dem judges. It had registered its intentions to support Butler, and a spokesman for the Democratic Judicial Campaign Committee, which is related to the CDC, reported robocalls going out today. See more in an item below.

Outside groups had spent some $3.1 million on TV ads on the four major network affiliates in Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee alone, according to a WisPolitics tally from last week. Combined with the independent expenditures, third-party groups have already blown by the record $3.1 million they spent on last year's Supreme Court race.

-- By JR Ross


 5:15 PM 

Gableman besting Butler for late money

Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman had outraised Justice Louis Butler in late contributions by more than $30,000 with more than three-fourths of his money coming from five donors who hit the maximum, according to reports filed by early this afternoon.

The late contribution reports filed at the Government Accountability Board cover anything that's come in since the close of the last reporting period, March 17. Since then, Gableman has received 24 donations totaling $77,360, compared to 55 donations totaling $46,200 for Butler.

Gableman received $10,000 donations -- the maximum -- from Paul Singer, general partner at Elliott Management in New York City, and Bonnie Loeb, the executive assistant at the company. Jay Newman of New York, whose occupation was listed as finance, also gave $10,000.

Gableman also received $10,000 each from Gordon Singer and Jenny Singer. Their occupations and addresses weren't included in Gableman's reports, but the information had been requested.

Gableman also received $5,000 donations from: Richard Uihlein, an Illinois executive at ULINE; David Humphreys, president of TAMKO Roofing Products in Joplin, Mo.; and John Bryan, a retiree living in Oswego, Ore.

Butler's largest donations were five contributions of $2,500 each. They came from former Gov. Martin Schreiber, a lobbyist who announced his endorsement of Butler last week; Susan Herzog of Palm Gardens, Fla., the communications director for Herzog College; Patrick Dunphy, a Milwaukee attorney; and Thomas St. John, a Shorewood attorney.

-- By JR Ross


 4:52 PM 

McGee appeals to constituents

Jailed Milwaukee Ald. Michael McGee released a statement this afternoon appealing to voters in his district let the legal system run its course and let "us witness first hand whether Mother Justice is blind, and whether there is only one legal system for all."

McGee is in jail awaiting trial on state and federal charges. He is running for re-election for his City Council seat tomorrow against Milele Coggs.

"I want my constituents to know that this is a short term situation and that sooner, rather than later, I'll be free," McGee said in a statement.

See the release: http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=122302

-- By Staff


 4:37 PM 

DA having trouble finding investigators for One Wisconsin Now complaint

Burnett County District Attorney Ken Kutz said he has found not takers so far in his request for neighboring prosecutors to handle an open records complaint One Wisconsin Now filed seeking e-mails from Gableman's county account.

Kutz said he sent out 10 emails to DAs in neighboring counties. Kutz has declined to pursue the complaint himself because Gableman is the only judge in the Burnett County.

"I've gotten nine 'nos' and one no response," he said.

Kutz said if none of his local colleagues take up the task, he'll most likely contact the state Attorney General's office to see if someone there can handle it.

Gableman released some e-mails to the liberal-leaning group in response to the records request but held back eight, saying they were personal in nature. OWN filed the complaint over those e-mails he held back.

Gableman's campaign said in a statement today he has complied with the OWN request and it's false to claim otherwise.


 2:28 PM 

GOP officials do robocalls supporting Gableman

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman Reince Priebus lent their voices to robocalls supporting Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman in his bid to unseat Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler.

RPW spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said the party got involved after seeing Gov. Jim Doyle working the campaign trail for Butler, and the state's largest teacher's union, WEAC, launching a statewide TV ad.

"We felt we needed to not sit on the sidelines while they're pouring in money and support," she said of the Priebus call.

The Priebus call was sent out to 100,000 phones statewide, but mostly focused on southeast Wisconsin, Kukowski said.

A spokeswoman for Ryan's campaign did not have details about the scope of the Ryan call.

Here's the Priebus transcript:

Hi, this is Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

Republicans have a clear choice for Supreme Court. Mike Gableman.

Judge Gableman was a Republican D.A. before he was appointed to the circuit court.

Gableman is a judicial conservative who will put victims ahead of criminals and not create new laws that hurt victims and jeopardize jobs in Wisconsin.

On the other hand, Louie Butler was appointed by Jim Doyle and is a former criminal defense attorney.

This Tuesday, please join me in voting for Mike Gableman for Supreme Court.

Here's the Ryan transcript:

Hi, this is Congressman Paul Ryan. I'm calling to ask you to join me in voting for Judge Michael Gableman for Supreme Court this Tuesday.

A former Republican district attorney, Judge Gableman's experience as a prosecutor has earned him the endorsements of a bipartisan majority of Wisconsin's sheriffs and district attorneys.

Like me, law enforcement supports Judge Gableman because they know he is the only candidate for the court we can trust to not legislate from the bench. We can trust Judge Gableman to put the rights of victims ahead of criminals.

That's why I hope you'll join me, Congressman Paul Ryan, in voting for Judge Gableman this Tuesday.

Paid for by Gableman for Supreme Court, James A. Zeiler, Treasurer.


Other robocalls are circulating from a pro-Butler union and a pro-Gableman union.

From Bryan Kennedy, president of AFT-Wisconsin: "Our union has endorsed Louis Butler because he is impartial and has a strong record on behalf of working families. As a former union member, Justice Butler understands our values."

And from R.J. Lurquin, president of the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association, on behalf of the Gableman campaign and "law enforcement's choice for the Supreme Court."

"Judge Gableman is a former prosecutor who worked hard to keep our communities safe, he says. "On the other hand, his opponent's decisions have made law enforcement's job more difficult.''

Arlington, Va.-based Democratic Judicial Campaign Committee is doing robocalls in the state in support of Butler.

DJCC spokesman David Browne declined to release a transcript of the calls, but said the gist of the message is that the corporate interests are pouring millions of dollars into the race, and encouraging voters to turn out to counter their influence.

Browne said there are five or six different variations of the calls, and about 200,000 are going out.

He declined to provide a transcript or a copy of the calls to WisPolitics.


 11:08 AM 

Wisconsin Family Action files complaint against Butler with Judicial Commission

Wisconsin Family Action has filed a complaint against Justice Louis Butler with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission charging that he "accepted contributions from LGBT interest groups and attorneys while telling the public that he wouldn't."

The complaint alleges that Butler's campaign accepted contributions from Fair Wisconsin, and says those donations jeopardize his ability to be impartial in cases before the state Supreme Court.

"Right now we are tracking several cases related to our pro-family, pro-traditional marriage position. Two of those cases are already before the Supreme Court. The other, a direct challenge to the constitutionality of the marriage amendment, will likely land there," WFA president Juliane Appling said in a statement released Friday. "We are very concerned about Justice Butler's ability to rule on these cases -- and any others of a similar nature -- in a fair and impartial way."

Wisconsin Judicial Commission executive director James Alexander said the group could not confirm or deny receiving the complaint.

See the WFA statement and complaint: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/080328_WFA_complaint.pdf

-- By Andy Szal


 10:11 AM 

Geseke tells "Up Front" Supreme Court race has been "demeaning"

A former state Supreme Court justice now at Marquette's law school, Janine Geske says the Supreme Court race has been "a devastation of our process," "demeaning" to the high court and the two candidates and a "huge blow" to the public perception of the court.

See more on Geske's view and more on the state Supreme Court race and the ads by viewing "UpFront with Mike Gousha." The show also features segments on the Milwaukee Co. exec race and how a tight state budget could affect county government.

You can view segments of the Sunday news magazine show online here.


 9:55 AM 

GWC PAC has new ad

A new ad from the Greater Wisconsin Committee PAC says the choice for Supreme Court comes down to "a politician or a judge."

The spot says Mike Gableman is a politician and a "big campaign contributor" who made phone calls to political fundraisers at taxpayer expense and "now he's running the most negative judicial campaign ever."

The ad then goes on to praise "the better choice," Justice Louis Butler. The ad says he had 16 years experience as a judge, is supported by 95 percent of judges statewide and is endorsed by more than 18,000 law enforcement officers.

See the ad in Ad Watch.

-- By JR Ross


 9:40 AM 

Robocalls start in Supreme Court race

The robocalls in the Supreme Court race started coming in over the weekend with one from the conservative-leaning Coalition for America's Families and the other from Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman's campaign.

Here's a transcription of the CFAF call:

Hello, I wanted to share with you that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Louis Butler earned the nickname Loophole Louis as a public defender. For over a decade, Butler tried to exploit legal technicalities to free some of Milwaukee's most violent criminals, and since Butler was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, he's used loopholes to suppress key evidence and overturn the convictions of repeat offenders, siding with violent criminals who threaten our safety. Louis Butler says he doesn't mind being call Loophole Louis. He actually thinks it's affectionate. What do you think? Call Louis Butler at 608-266-1884 and ask him to deliver justice, not loopholes. Paid for by the Coalition for America's Families.

Here's a transcript of the Gableman call:

Hi, this is Judge Mike Gableman calling to ask you for your vote on Tuesday for Supreme Court. As the only candidate with both judicial and prosecutorial experience, I know how courtroom decisions impact the safety of our communities and prosperity of our state. I hope you'll tune out all those dishonest campaign commercials and listen to the bipartisan majority of sheriffs and district attorneys who have endorsed me. I'm honored to be law enforcement's choice, and I'd be honored to have your vote on Tuesday. Paid for by Gableman for Supreme Court, James Zeller treasurer.

-- By JR Ross


 9:17 AM 

Butler, Gableman make final campaign push

Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler won editorial endorsements over the weekend from at least four newspaper editorial boards as he embarks this morning on an eight-city election eve campaign swing.

Butler started this morning at the Madison Concourse Hotel and also plans appearances in Waukesha, Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and Eau Claire.

Challenger Michael Gableman, meanwhile, planned campaign stops in Wausau, Green Bay and Milwaukee.

Over the weekend, Butler got editorial support from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Kenosha News and newspapers in Manitowoc and Sheboygan. Butler had previously been endorsed by the Appleton Post-Crescent, Capital Times, Green Bay Press Gazette, La Crosse Tribune and Superior Telegram.

Gableman has been endorsed by the Beloit Daily News and Sun Prairie Star.

The Wisconsin State Journal endorsed neither candidate, instead pushing for merit selection of Supreme Court justices.

See more endorsements at the WisPolitics 2008 Supreme Court Election Overview.


 9:14 AM 

Voters across state face referenda tomorrow

Forty-seven school districts are seeking $450 million in extra money through referendums Tuesday, according to a list posted at the Department of Public Instruction Web site.

In November, 10 referendum questions comprising just more than $302 million were posed to voters; five of them worth $145 million were approved.

A year ago, a record $663 million in referendum questions were put to voters by 52 school districts. Of that, $425 million was denied while $239 million was approved.

See a list of the referendums here.


 9:09 AM 

Outside groups outspend SC candidates 11-to-1

Outside groups and the candidates in this spring's Supreme Court race will combine to spend at least $3.1 million on TV ads in the state's largest markets, with a third of that coming in the final week of the campaign, according to records checked by WisPolitics.

Of that, Justice Louis Butler and Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman will combine for just $285,146 in ads, meaning they will be outspent nearly 11-to-1 on the network affiliates in Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee.

WisPolitics compiled the totals by checking available records on Thursday for TV buys at the four major network affiliates in each market. The buys cover the period of Feb. 20 through Tuesday's election, though they do not reflect buys from outside groups on the NBC affiliate in Green Bay, which will only disclose buys by candidates. Also, an ad from WEAC has been running on cable TV, which was not included in the WisPolitics tally.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

 8:13 AM 

Butler, Gableman spar in final debate

Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman repeatedly attacked Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler as a judicial activist while touting his own conservative credentials Friday night in their final debate before next week's election.

Butler countered Gableman was misrepresenting cases he had decided and his record, while calling a TV ad his opponent's campaign has run "disgusting" and demeaning to voters.

The two candidates traded barbs frequently over the hour long debate, a forum sponsored by "We the People" and broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Television and Radio. It was the candidates' final face-to-face meeting before the Tuesday election for the state's highest court.

Many observers believe the balance of the court is at stake on Tuesday with a Gableman win giving conservatives four justices on the bench and an edge that could last years. Outside groups have already spent millions on the race, which has been marked by a stream of negative ads that have attacked the records of both men, questioning their handling of cases as well as their ethics.

The gloves came off early, as Gableman accused Butler of voting to overturn a homicide conviction.

"At least get the cases right," Butler retorted.

Gableman replied, "Oh I have them right, and so will the voters on Tuesday."

Gableman also often referred to Butler's appointment to the court by Gov. Jim Doyle and 2000 defeat when he challenged then-Justice Diane Sykes while serving as a Milwaukee County judge.

Butler expressed exasperation throughout the debate, saying Gableman was "casting aspersions" and impugning the integrity of the court.

"Well, there you go again," Butler said at one point in frustration.

They even bickered over who was using too much time with their responses, and a telling moment came when one questioner asked them each to say something about their opponent that they liked.

"He’s been a judge for almost six years; that I think goes toward his qualifications," Butler said grudgingly.

Gableman turned his answer into a jab at Butler, saying he believes Butler "sincerely believes that the judicial activist model is the model that's more appropriate for Supreme Court justices."

Another pivotal moment in the debate took place when the candidates were asked to discuss ads their campaigns had aired.

Gableman has come under fire from some quarters for an ad that featured Rueben Lee Mitchell, a sex offender Butler represented as a public defender more than 20 years ago. The spot implies Butler's actions resulted in Mitchell's release, allowing him to offend again. Court records show Butler's appeal was eventually denied and Mitchell served his sentence before he was released and committed another crime. A couple dozen protesters picketed outside the TV studio Friday night over the ad, chanting "Shame on Gableman."

After the ad was shown, Gableman said he felt the spot served its "primary purpose" to demonstrate the differences in the candidates' backgrounds. Butler, who said his campaign was running only positive ads, read a list of media who have denounced the Gableman ad. He said his own campaign ran an ad in response to the Gableman spot "in recognition of regardless of what's thrown out there, the fiction becomes the reality of voters."

Asked if it would be better to appoint Supreme Court justices rather than elect them, Gableman said that he has "been very proud to take my message to the people of the state. ... My message is resonating with voters."

Butler countered that the judiciary is "being tainted by the way campaigns are being run," and though he supports electing justices, he acknowledged "something is very broken in our elective justice system."

The candidates sparred time and again over judicial philosophy, with Gableman citing several cases that he says illustrate Butler's "judicial activism."

"If you're going to be a judicial activist, then you should simply say so and argue the true merits" of that philosophy, Gableman said.

"That's not my philosophy and you know it, and those are ridiculous charges," Butler replied.

Read the transcript here.

Watch video of the debate at the We The People Web site here.

-- By Greg Bump


Friday, March 28, 2008

 1:53 PM 

Departed WJCIC member donated to Gableman

A recently departed member of the State Bar's Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee gave $100 to Michael Gableman's campaign shortly after leaving the body.

The committee has come under fire in conservative circles for political ties some members have, including a donation member Tony Earl gave to Louis Butler's unsuccessful 2000 campaign for the court.

DeEtte Beilfuss-Eager was added to the committee in late January following some of that criticism. But she mailed the State Bar a letter dated March 5 announcing she was leaving because of personal reasons, Bar spokesman Tom Solberg said. He said the Bar was not aware of the letter until March 17.

Beilfuss-Eager gave Gableman $100 on March 14, according to the Burnett County judge's campaign finance report.

Solberg declined to release her letter to the Bar, and Beilfuss-Eager is not listed in the Madison phone book.

None of the remaining committee members -- Tom Basting, Tim Cullen, Dennis Dresang, Earl, Joe Heim, Bill Kraus, Neil Nettesheim and Carol Toussaint -- donated to either campaign during the most recent reporting period, according to a check of both candidates' finance reports.

See the March 28 WisPolitics REPORT for more on the latest campaign finance reports.

-- By Staff


 10:31 AM 

Burnett Co. DA seeks neighboring prosecutor for OWN complaint against Gableman

The Burnett County district attorney has asked about a dozen DAs in neighboring counties to handle an open records complaint One Wisconsin Now has filed seeking e-mails from Gableman's county account.

DA Ken Kutz said he decided to ask others to handle the complaint because he has regular contact with Gableman, the only judge in Burnett County. He said half of the offices he's contacted so far have declined the offer.

"My suspicion is ultimately I'm going to have to talk to the attorney general's office to appoint someone to handle the matter," Kutz said.

Gableman released some e-mails to the liberal-leaning group in response to the records request but held back eight, saying they were personal in nature. OWN filed the complaint over those e-mails he held back.

Gableman's campaign said in a statement he has complied with the OWN request and it's false to claim otherwise.

*Read the OWN release:
*Read the Gableman statement:

-- By Staff


Thursday, March 27, 2008

 11:12 AM 

WJC doesn't acknowledge complaint against Butler

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission's executive director says he can't say whether his office received a complaint from a conservative activist against Justice Louis Butler.

The commission issued a statement earlier this month acknowledging it had received a complaint filed against Michael Gableman by Wisconsin Citizen Action. The statement did not comment beyond acknowledging it had received the complaint, which Citizen Action had publicized in a release to the media.

Executive Director James Alexander said today he could not say why the commission could not comment on whether it had received the Butler complaint, which Bob Dohnal distributed to the media yesterday.

Dohnal said he filed the complaint with the Government Accountability Board as well, but staff there said it is prohibited under the ethics overhaul lawmakers approved last year from commenting in any way about complaints filed with the body, including acknowledging receipt of one.

Read the complaint:

-- By Staff


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

 10:26 AM 

Butler, Gableman continue to trade barbs over ad at debate

Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler said Tuesday night it was an embarrassment to the public that his opponent had run a TV ad suggesting his actions led to a child molester being freed to offend again.

But Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman countered the ad fairly contrasts the backgrounds between the two, pointing out Butler spent time as a public defender earlier in his career while he had served as a prosecutor.

"My opponent spent his former career working for the Reuben Lee Mitchells of the world," Gableman said, referring to the molester featured in the spot.

Butler criticized Gableman for making the decision to run the ad, saying it was a poor reflection on his opponent's campaign.

"Quite frankly it's disgusting, and it's embarrassing, and it should not have gone up in the first place," Butler said.

Gableman's ad referred to the case of Mitchell, who was convicted of raping an 11-year old girl. The narrator in the spot says, "Butler found a loophole; Mitchell went on to molest another child."

Butler was Mitchell's public defender and appealed his conviction. While he won at the appeals court, the Supreme Court reinstated the conviction, and Mitchell served his sentence. Following his parole, he committed the second offense.

Gableman spent much of the hour long debate touting his experience as a former prosecutor and a judge, the cornerstone of his campaign. He said he had worked "shoulder to shoulder" with victims of crime and law enforcement officials in seeking justice. He repeatedly pointed out that Butler had worked as a public defender and promised he would be a judicial conservative who wouldn't legislate from the bench if elected April 1. He also took a swipe at Butler over a newspaper report from the weekend that showed he had received contributions from a lawyer with a case pending before the Supreme Court.

Butler countered Gableman's punch by pointing out the donations were allowed under judicial codes and he had gone out of his way to disclose contributions to those with business before the court. He said he was proud to have worked as a public defender, saying it was an important part of the judicial system and providing a good defense forced prosecutors to strive to be better.

Butler questioned Gableman's decision to run the Mitchell ad several times during the debate, urging voters to look at the ads the two campaigns have run. He said he has remained positive throughout the campaign, but "I wish I could say the same for my opponent" and challenged Gableman to take responsibility for the inappropriateness of his TV ad. He encouraged voters to ignore the spots from outside groups and use the campaigns own spots to evaluate the two.

The two continued to trade barbs throughout the hour long debate about the Mitchell ad as well as those run by outside groups.

Butler noted all seven sitting justices had signed a letter supporting public financing for Supreme Court races because the system had become so broken. He noted last year's race was generally panned by those who watched it for its negative tone and this year's race was no better.

"We do believe we have to do something to fix this system where these outside groups are basically launching an assault on our justice system as we know it and the independence of our judiciary system," Butler said.

Gableman questioned how anyone who may challenge such a system before the court could expect to get a fair shake considering the justice's state support.

He also called it disingenuous for Butler to complain about the tone of the race when the liberal-leaning Greater Wisconsin Committee ran the first TV ad of the campaign attacking his integrity. He said the group has spent "every nickel" since then attacking him and was the biggest spender in the race so far. He also said it was disingenuous for Butler to complain he had been the recipient of more attacks than he had when the "facts simply show otherwise."

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign released a report Tuesday that showed outside groups had spent an estimated $1.8 million on the Supreme Court race through March 16. The report showed the GWC had spent $603,000, making it the biggest spender of the four outside groups that had weighed in on the race through the middle of March.

But the Club for Growth, the Coalition for America's Families and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce -- all of which have run pro-Gableman or anti-Butler spots -- had combined to spend $1.2 million.

A Gableman campaign consultant said afterward that the judge had meant to say the GWC had spent the most on attacks in the race.

Butler said the only way to end such attacks was for voters to reject them next week.

"If we want to change the tenor of this, the only way we're going to do that is to show that we're not going to accept it," Butler said. "That falls on every single voter in the state."

Gableman refused to back away from the claims made in his first TV ad, pointing out Butler said in his unsuccessful bid for the court in 2000 that a candidate's background was "fair game" in a Supreme Court race. He said the spot was a fair examination of those backgrounds.

"If we can't talk about our professional background, if we can't talk about our judicial philosophies, then what on Earth can we talk about in this race?" he said.

The debate was co-sponsored by the Wisconsin State Bar, WisPolitics.com, the Wisconsin State Journal, the Wisconsin Radio Network and The Wisconsin Law Journal. It was moderated by Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin and Shawn Johnson.

Watch a Webcast of the debate: http://www.wisbar.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=state_bar_events&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&contentid=70645#

-- By JR Ross


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

 5:24 PM 

Conservative activist files complaint over Butler with GAB

Conservative activist Bob Dohnal filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board today accusing Butler of violating the prohibition on receiving corporate contributions.

The complaint says Butler had previously listed the address for the law firm of Friebert, Finerty & St. John as the address for his campaign account. It says the firm received campaign contributions for Butler at its Milwaukee address, sent campaign finance reports attached to firm letterhead and submitted campaign finance reports signed by a firm employee.

Firm partner John Finerty had been Butler's campaign treasurer until recently.

The complaint says the first payment to the firm was listed in 2008. Butler's pre-primary report shows a payment of $1,000 to the firm for "fees."

The complaint also says Butler did not recuse himself from cases before the court involving representatives of the corporation. It accuses him of violating the judicial code of ethics by hearing matters involving the firm that was "illegally providing pecuniary benefit to his campaign."

The Butler campaign was still reviewing the complaint at WisPolitics' deadline. A GAB spokesman did not return a call seeking details on how the complaint would be handled.

Read the complaint:

-- By Staff


 12:22 PM 

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign: Outside groups spent more than $1.8 million on high court race

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates four outside groups spent $1.8 million on the Supreme Court race between Feb. 20 and March 16, most of it on so-called issue ads.

By comparison, Justice Louis Butler spent $244,710 between Feb. 5 and March 17, according to his latest campaign finance report, while Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman spent $114,606 during the same period.

WDC Executive Director Mike McCabe said it's likely the outside groups will exceed the $3.1 million spent on last year's Supreme Court race between Linda Clifford and Annette Ziegler.

But he's not sure whether the candidates and outside groups will combine to spend more than the $5.8 million the WDC believes was spent in 2007. McCabe said that’s because Butler and Gableman won't come close to the $2.7 million the candidates spent last year.

"We don't know that the $5.8 million mark will be broken, but spending will be much more lopsided in favor of the interest groups," McCabe said.

The WDC based its estimate largely on data collected by an ad monitoring service that tracks the top 100 markets in the U.S. For Wisconsin, that includes Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee. The WDC then did estimates on TV buys in other Wisconsin markets, as well as radio campaigns and other spending it has been able to track.

McCabe called it a "very conservative" estimate of spending in the race through mid-March.

WisPolitics has been tracking TV buys in the Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee markets. It found more than $1.4 million spent by the outside groups on TV buys alone for the major network affiliates in those three markets for the same time period studied by the WDC.

The WisPolitics tally of TV ads in those markets topped $1.9 million for the outside groups through the end of last week.

See the WDC report:

-- By Staff


 11:20 AM 

Walker holds 6-to-1 advantage over Taylor in cash on hand

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has an almost 6-to-1 advantage over challenger state Sen. Lena Taylor for cash on hand, according to campaign finance reports they released today.

The reports show Walker had $320,709 in the bank as of March 17, while Taylor had $54,535.

Taylor's campaign said the year-to-date column on her report reflects activity since Jan. 1, 2005, because of her state Senate campaign.

*See Taylor's report:
*See Walker's report:

-- By Staff


Monday, March 24, 2008

 8:18 PM 

Waukesha County, Milwaukee lawyers weigh in on Supreme Court candidates

Almost twice as many members of the Waukesha County Bar Association who responded to a survey rated Butler as highly qualified or qualified for the court than gave the same rating for Gableman.

Of the 620 ballots mailed out, 188 were returned. Members were asked to rate the candidates as highly qualified, qualified, not qualified or no opinion.

Eighty-eight members rated Butler as highly qualified, while 44 said he was qualified. Twenty-eight said he was not qualified, while 23 had no opinion.

Twenty respondents rated Gableman highly qualified, while 48 found him qualified. Fifty-four rated his as not qualified, while 55 had no opinion.

In the 2nd District Court of Appeals race, 111 rated William Gleisner as highly qualified or qualified, while 91 found Lisa Neubauer highly qualified or qualified.

See the release:

Last week, the Milwaukee Bar Association's poll showed eighty-two percent of the MBA's members who rated Justice Louis Butler found him "qualified" for the state Supreme Court, while 23 percent of those rating Gableman felt the same about him.

Ten percent of those rating Butler found him unqualified for the court, while 39 percent of those rating Gableman found him unqualified. Butler is a former Milwaukee judge.

The MBA sent out ballots to its 5,240 members, and 643 were returned by Monday's deadline. Butler was rated by 526 of those who returned ballots, while Gableman was rated by 512.

Members were asked to rate each judicial candidate appearing on the ballot in Milwaukee County as qualified, unqualified or "no opinion." Criteria included integrity, communication and management skills, and knowledge and understanding of the law.

*See the release:
*See the results:

-- By Staff


 6:14 PM 

Butler raises $221,000 in past six weeks; Gableman reports $150,000 raised

Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler had almost twice as much money in the bank as of March 17 as his challenger, Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman, according to campaign finance reports filed today.

Butler reported raising $221,210 during the six-week period covered in the latest report, while Gableman raised $149,794.

Butler had $228,328 cash on hand, while Gableman had just more than $120,000 in the bank.

Since the beginning of 2007, Butler has raised $638,668. Since joining the race last fall, Gableman has raised $276,294.

See Butler's cover sheet:
See the Gableman cover sheet:
See Gableman's release:

-- By Staff


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

 11:17 AM 

Citizen Action files complaint against Gableman

Citizen Action Wisconsin has filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission alleging Supreme Court candidate Michael Gableman violated the Code of Judicial Conduct in his first TV ad of the campaign.

A Gableman campaign consultant said the complaint was meritless.

The spot mentions the case of Reuben Lee Mitchell, who was convicted of raping an 11-year old girl. The narrator in the ad says, "Butler found a loophole; Mitchell went on to molest another child."

Butler was Mitchell's public defender and appealed his conviction. While he won at the appeals court, the Supreme Court reinstated the conviction, and Mitchell served his sentence. Following his parole, he committed the second offense.

Citizen Action wrote in a letter to the commission that the spot "knowingly and with reckless disregard misrepresents the facts in the case." The group claims the ad implies that Butler was a judge at the time of the case and that Mitchell was released because of Butler's actions.

Gableman campaign adviser Darrin Schmitz said the ad is factually accurate.

"It's nothing more than a stunt," said Schmitz of the public announcement of the complaint, which is typically handled in private.

"Citizen Action is trying to divert the voters' attention away from the real choice in the race," Schmitz said.

The Judicial Commission acknowledged receipt of the complaint in a statement, but noted its proceedings are confidential and declined further comment.

*Read the Citizen Action letter:
*Read the Citizen Action release:

-- By Staff


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