Monday, December 28, 2009

Scraping The Bottom Of The Barrel

When Governor Jim Doyle signed the Impartial Justice bill into law on December 1, a Virginia group called the Center for Competitive Politics all but promised to sue to block the law. CCP's president left no doubt his outfit was shopping for a litigant in Wisconsin even before it got the governor's signature.

CCP is indeed behind a lawsuit filed in federal court last Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of Wisconsin's Supreme Court election reform law. But it seems the litigant shopping didn't go all that well. Turns out the only Wisconsinite they could find willing to be the public face of the lawsuit is someone who was for publicly financed Supreme Court elections before he was evidently talked into being against them.

As Wisconsin Public Radio reported last week:
Former candidate sues over public financing law for high court races

Former Supreme Court candidate and Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick has filed a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's new public financing law for Supreme Court races. That's despite comments he made on the campaign trail in support of public financing.

Koschnick did not take public financing in his unsuccessful race for the state Supreme Court. Any money his campaign spent came either from himself or private donors, and not the state.

But at the press conference where Koschnick announced his candidacy back in November of 2008, he was asked directly how he felt about public financing.

Koschnick responded, "I think that's a great idea."

Koschnick went on to say he wasn't rich, and that he hoped to raise enough money from individuals to run a serious campaign. But, he added that he thought public financing would enable legitimate
candidates to run without necessarily having to be independently wealthy and might also reduce the influence of third-party groups who "obviously wield a lot of power and money."

Despite that praise for public financing on the campaign trail, Koschnick is now trying to overturn the entirety of Wisconsin's new public financing law.
As a candidate, Judge Koschnick made a compelling case that public financing of elections enhances free speech by giving more candidates the means to run competitively. In his lawsuit, he now claims public financing of Supreme Court elections "violates the Speech Clause of the First Amendment" by "suppressing the speech of candidates for the Office of Justice."

Care to explain the flip flop, judge?


Anonymous said...

Does it matter? Does it matter if Koschnick has changed his mind? Does it matter if the Center for Competitive Politics is headquartered in Virginia? Isn't Common Cause headquartered in Washington? Is there merit to this lawsuit?

Poplicola said...

Yes, it matters. Aside from the obvious inconsistency and hypocrisy, there must be a story behind how Koschnick said that public financing is a good thing one minute and then turned around the next and sued to prevent it from happening.

It's also relevant and interesting that an Indiana lawyer who is a member of the Republican National Committee is the driving force behind one of the lawsuits that's been filed and a Virginia group co-founded by a guy who used to be the top lawyer for the National Republican Senatorial Committee is working behind the scenes on the other one.

Our Supreme Court is supposedly nonpartisan. These aren't nonpartisans who are challenging the law. Looks like party politics is what this is all about. And are there no Wisconsin attorneys who are qualified to handle this if such lawsuits truly have merit? Who is paying these lawyers from Indiana and Virginia to meddle in this here?

These are legitimate questions that regular voters here deserve to have answered.

Anonymous said...

Koshnick not only should explain his flip flop, but also should clue us in to what kind of logic he employed to conclude that giving candidates the ability to respond to interest group attacks limits free speech.

The public financing law does not restrict the right of any group to speak in any way. Groups can spend as much as they want. The only thing the law does is give the target of the special interests some ability to respond to the attacks. Enlighten us, Judge Koshnick, how that does not amount to more speech, not less.