Friday, February 22, 2008

Swiftboating Our Supreme Court

All signs are indicating that this year's state Supreme Court race is heading somewhere between the low road and the gutter. If it's possible, a turn for the worse appears to be coming. The Democracy Campaign has learned that the PR firm that did a lot of the dirty work for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in smearing John Kerry's military record is now involved in Wisconsin's Supreme Court race.

CRC Public Relations, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, was paid more than $282,000 by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for consulting and media work. CRC is now working to arrange media interviews for Wisconsin attorneys Dan Kelly, Rebecca Bradley, David Simon and Don Daugherty to badmouth the Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee and talk up conservative candidate Michael Gableman.

CRC initially was refusing to say who hired them to plant stories favorable to Gableman, but CRC's Jennifer Fedor finally fessed up to Wisconsin Public Radio's Gil Halsted. She says the firm is working at the behest of the Federalist Society.


Don Daugherty said...

Mr. McCabe – I just gotta respond to your post. Neither Rebecca, Dan, David nor I have any interest in “Swiftboating Our Supreme Court.” However, to use your language, I guess we can be fairly accused of wanting to “swiftboat” (or, as I prefer, to “bork”) the WJCIC.

Please let me also correct you on what the Federalist Society does and doesn’t do, as well as what Rebecca, Dan, David and I are doing and not doing.

The Federalist Society does not support any candidate for judicial or other office. Similarly, I am not publicly supporting either Justice Butler or Judge Gableman, and I’m not aware of Rebecca, Dan or David doing so either, so your statement that we’re trying to “talk up conservative candidate Michael Gableman” is incorrect. Although, again, we can be fairly accused of trying to make members of the State Bar, and the public generally, aware of serious concerns we have about the WJCIC, nothing we have done or will do can be characterized as being between “the low road and the gutter.” We are simply exercising our right to publicly question the wisdom behind the WJCIC, and doing so in a responsible manner, I think.

We’re all proud members of the Federalist Society and participate in its efforts to raise public awareness about issues relating to the state courts (e.g., the role of such courts, judicial philosophy, etc.), but we speak on own behalves. We are not “working at the behest of” anyone. To the extent the Federalist Society facilitates getting our voices heard, that’s great. To the extent the Federalist Society engages the CRC to help do so, also great. (The Cap Times wrote about it a couple of years ago, so it’s old news.) Presumably, your organization engages others to help get your message out, as do Justice Butler, Judge Gableman, the Greater Wisconsin Committee, One Wisconsin Now, and many other people who want to participate in public debate. All great. But, so what? Rather than who is helping who help who say something, the much more important topic is what is being said – here, whether the WJCIC is a good idea or not.

To that end, we are scheduling a debate about the WJCIC to take place in Milwaukee sometime over the next few weeks. (Details will be posted shortly on our Milwaukee Federalist Society website, We have extended several invitations to the WJCIC and its chair, Tom Basting, to represent the WJCIC’s position at the debate, but so far they’ve ducked. It’s not going to be much of a debate if nobody shows up to defend the WJCIC, so I ask that you and anyone else concerned about how judges are elected in Wisconsin to please encourage Mr. Basting and his committee members to participate. Also, we have asked the American Constitution Society, which is essentially the liberal answer to the Federalist Society, to co-sponsor the debate and hope that they will do so.

As stated in our January op ed,, our criticisms focus on the problems caused by using the mantle of the state’s leading organization of lawyers to police speech protected by the First Amendment. However, it’s turning out that not only is the WJCIC a really, really bad idea in theory, but it’s much, much worse in practice. As evidence of this, look at e-mail uncovered recently between WJCIC members, WJCIC has a responsibility to come forward and defend what it is doing, especially given that it is funded with dues that Bar members like Rebecca, Dan, David, and I are required to pay. Our upcoming debate will be a perfect opportunity for WJCIC to do so.

Thanks for the chance to respond, and I hope you’re able to attend the debate. Don Daugherty

Anonymous said...

The current controversial ad, which was pulled in Green Bay, for being potentially slanderous, was made by a 527 PAC that is owned and operated by the current Wisconsin GOP National Committee Chairman, Steve King.

So now the Wisc GOP staff is running shady PACs!

Unethical, yes. Illegal, not until we send the GOP pink slips in November.
I am supporting Justice Butler.