The Wisconsin Realtors Association plans to spend more than $200,000 to reelect a state Supreme Court justice who voted to approve court rules the group helped write that say justices don't have to remove themselves from cases involving parties who helped get them elected.
The realtors group filed documents with the state in February saying it may spend $206,648 to support incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack, who is considered one of the court's four conservatives, in her April 2 reelection bid against Ed Fallone, a Marquette Law School professor.
The realtors have not directly spent money on outside electioneering activities in a Supreme Court race until now.
So far, the realtors group has sponsored an ad that touts Roggensack's endorsements by several county sheriffs and that she is a fair and independent judge whose rulings help keep the public safe. However, the group told its members it endorsed Roggensack because she ruled in favor of the realtors group or real industry practices most of the time in cases before her since she was elected in 2003.
Roggensack was among the justices who voted 4-3 to approve rules in 2009 that say campaign contributions, endorsements and outside electioneering activities, like broadcast ads and mailings, by a person or group in a case before the high court are not automatic grounds for a justice who received the support to recuse themselves in the case.
The rules were written by the statewide realtors group and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state's largest business organization and a powerful lobbying force that has spent millions of dollars to support mostly Republicans for statewide office and the legislature.
The court and concerns about conflicts of interest and bias in cases before it drew national attention because of two nasty Supreme Court campaigns in 2007 and 2008 where outside special interest groups spent a combined $7.9 million - about twice as much as the candidates. Later, the court narrowly decided a case that favored WMC's position and resulted in millions of dollars in business tax refunds.