Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Speech police or keystone cops?

Yesterday, the Club for Growth released the fruits of an open records record request that netted it at least some of the e-mail communications among members of the Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee.

Apparently, the video of an interview that I did with Jim Pugh of WMC came to the committee's attention. They decided not to take any "action" because they thought it was "debatable fair commentary" and that we'd be fortunate if election comentary remained "on the high plane of Prof. Esenberg's video." But the issue did prompt committe member Bill Kraus (who agrees that there is no action required by the committee) to suggest how the video (which he refers to as part of "the enemies tactics") is an opportunity for the Butler campaign to respond to my "oversimplifications." Another committee member Dennis Dresang agrees and says that Kraus' "suggestion" was well stated.

I understand that he may say that he is just expressing his personal views, but it certainly creates the impression of bias and seems to be one of the themes that emerges from the e-mails. Kraus is blatantly partisan.

But there is a more serious problem. Kraus' partisanship seems to have infected the committee's response to only complaint that it has acted upon.

In response to One Wisconsin Now's complaint about a Gableman mailing criticizing some criminal law cases, Judge Deininger points out that there is nothing in the mailing that "crosses any boundaries" and that what the Gableman literature said was consititutionally protected. He suggests that the complaint is an attempt on the part of one side to enlist the committee in its cause and warns the group that its response will, for that reason, have an impact on what will happen in the future.

The other members don't seem to have heeded that caution. Kraus immediately ignores the fact that the Gableman literature was constitutionally protected, announcing that he prefers candidates who say what they will do or who they are. He wants the committee to create a bright line. Other committee members agree. They should "draw a line in the sand" and "fire a shot across the bow" by issuing a mild rebuke. And that's what they did.

Now keep in mind that this is not just a group of citizens. This is a project of the State Bar to which every lawyer in the state who wishes to be licensed to practice must belong and support. It is, under applicable law, an arm of the state.

And so it issues a statement invoking all of that authority to rebuke a statement that it acknowledges is constitutionally protected speech and does not violate the Judicial Code because it would "prefer" that the candidate say something else.

That the committee wants to impose its own rules on the process is bad enough, but the rule that Kraus, at least, wants to impose is not even handed. You don't beat an incumbent without criticizing him. Not only was the committee's "mild rebuke" illegitimate, it was not evenhanded.

This reflects why the whole project was misconceived from the outset. The committee's belief that it can impartially police the campaign in a way that transforms campaign discourse and respects the constitution is self delusion. They are a cure that is worse than the disease. They ought to disband.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Impeach Basting.

Terrence Berres said...

Here's Mr. Basting's reply, for WJCIC, to the Gableman campaign.

When he was slated as a candidate for State Bar president-elect, Mr. Basting said "I welcome the chance to provide my style of leadership to this great professional organization... ." Now there's a campaign promise kept.

Anonymous said...

Political hacks often dovetail defensive criticism with half-hearted apologies. "I was wrong, but here's why I'm still right . . ."

Does anyone over at that committee realize how truly bad these e-mails make them look???

Anonymous said...

Last night during the 6PM news, there was an add depicting Gableman as a bobble head, claiming that he was unethical because he donated to McCallum who appointed him as a judge.

The ad was really very silly and I don't think it said that Butler approved it.

I don't think that anyone has the right to step in to stop this type of thing just because they don't agree with it.

Anonymous said...

Don't hold your breath waiting for the WJCIC to demand that Justice Butler request publicly that his supporters stop running such a scurrilous attack on Judge Gableman.

Anonymous said...

Who is paying for this commission? The taxpayers? Basting? Habish?

joe stalin said...

Rick, I've complimented your level headed/cool headed nature a few times on your excellent blog.
I realize that you like everyone have your own opinions favorites and certain biases, but you are a class guy.
Rick, you, like John McCain, are in the eye of the hurricane.
You're decency, objectivity, and willingness to take the extreme slings and arrows meted out to you, makes you a target for those very slings and arrows. Rick, it's clear that you are somewhat Conservative, and it's clear that you are thoughtful and open minded. As such you are Rick Esenberg non-grata to the left. Heck, I'm not your big brother, but, you are being shit on, because those you tend to indulge don't tend to indulge you.
Nor me. Rick, the WJCIC is co-opted and extremely liberal. You knew that. The WJCIC, pretended to be a watch dog, and the MSM including the Milwaukee Urinal and the Madison media pretended that the WJCIC wasn't a lib hatchet group. So even after being caught, reeled in, scaled, deboned, fileted and pan fried, these lib freaks continue to pretend not to be exactly what they are??
Rick, much like the McCain New York Times piece or the Dan Rather-G.W.Bush National Guard piece, this biased media makes a complete ass of itself, and moves right along. And somehow, we feel we can minimize it? You and I feel it still has some credence?
God Bless you and the Redess of Roscommon, but, you need to recognize those who are willing to savage you.

Jack Lohman said...

I am constantly amazed at the hypocrisy from the right-wingnuts. Corruption is fine on our side, but not yours.

So, after all that, is Gableman going to sign the fair campaign agreement or not?

Anonymous said...

Jack -

I agree with you that corruption exist on both sides but I also believe it should be exposed and not hidden so it can be cleaned up.

I strongly disagree that Gableman should sign an agreement that leaves out the most important party to the election process "We the People". Moreover, I understand that the rules are not constitutional further depriving "we the people".

Our laws reflect the world view of the people and I want to hear the world views of the candidates. This narrowing it down so people really don't know where they stand is a bunch of nonsense. It doesn't sound like the USA.

Dad29 said...

So, after all that, is Gableman going to sign the fair campaign agreement or not?

I think it is VERY telling, Jack, that Louis Butler did not sign the statement within 12 days of its mailing to his campaign.

VERY telling.

Jack Lohman said...

So you believe that exposing which special interests are bribing our electorate is better than having that electorate not obligated to special interests on either side of the issue?

I disagree. I don’t want my public official bribed by anyone, not even the special interests I support.

If you want “the people” in the loop, then “the people” have to fund the elections. And since public funding of campaigns is “OPTIONAL,” it is constitutional (at least the courts have said so in states that have the Opt-in capability).

No public candidate should be forced to take my money or yours, and the current system virtually demands that. I want a system where the candidate can opt IN or opt OUT. Then the guy taking public money is forced to run on ideas to develop his support. And the people can decide whether they want a public or private system.

THAT is “we the people.” If you don’t like it, opt out. And it is all constitutional.

Rick Esenberg said...

Mr. Stalin

Thank you for your kind words although can't I get credit for a little more than "somewhat conservative?" I do try.

Jack Lohman said...

I haven't followed the details, dad29, but they should all be treated alike. And if Butler hasn't signed the agreement his feet should be held to the fire too.

I just really wonder when we are going to get past this all. A generation from now we're going to have our kids asking in wonderment "Gee, do you mean your government policymakers and judges were able to take money from the special interests that wanted laws passed or blocked?"

"Yeah," we'll tell them. "And we allowed smoking in day care centers and schools and public places. WE were conservative, don'cha know!"

Anonymous said...

Jack -

I don't know what you're talking about. That agreement only gives candidates something to hide behind when they don't want to answer a question.

I want them to answer the questions., don't you?


PS Am I imagining things or are Rick and Joe having a Hallmark moment. :)

Jack Lohman said...

I absolutely do want them to answer the questions, anonymous, but I want to go further and pass the public funding option for judicial campaigns. I don't want them to be taking money from special interests, especially lawyers.

And Yes on Rick and Joe, but I don't think it's polite to watch. ;-)

Terrence Berres said...

Mr. Lohman:

"I am constantly amazed at the hypocrisy from the right-wingnuts. Corruption is fine on our side, but not yours."

If you're calling the WJCIC a corrupt left-wing organization, it's not really a defense of it for you to say you grade corruption on a curve.

"No public candidate should be forced to take my money or yours... . I want a system where the candidate can opt IN or opt OUT."

Wouldn't public financing mean the Department of Revenue taking my money and yours, with no opt-out?

Jack Lohman said...

Terrence, the Department of Revenue ALREADY IS taking your money for the "privately financed" political campaigns. It's through the back door and occurs when politicians write bills to pass taxpayer money to the special interests that fund their elections. It's costing $1300 per taxpayer per year for subsidies, tax breaks and no-bid contracts. Public funding would cost $5 per taxpayer. Take your pick.

And No, there is no opt-out with either system. Only a gigantic cost difference.

Dad29 said...

Jack, you're a good heart but the picture of irony.

Here you are, legitimately complaining that Gummint(s?) spend about $1300 of anyone's money "paying off" interests.

Of course, that's because the State imposes itself on every damn thing it comes across.

THEN, Jack, you propose that the State impose itself on health-care--the most grandiose imposition in our history.

You can have one or the other: either the State goes back to minding its OWN business, or it minds everyone's--at a price.

Jack Lohman said...

Dad29, you have it wrong about the Healthy Wisconsin plan. It does not use taxpayer money, it adds a 10.5% tax on the wages corporations pay, but that eliminates the 15% they are currently paying in healthcare premiums. That’s a 4.5% savings for corporations that will keep companies in the state and attract more to come. It adds a 4% tax on employees but increases benefits by 16%. It provides virtually all Wisconsinites with family plans, eliminates pre-existing denials, provides complete portability, adds dental for children and expands mental parity. All for less money than we are paying today.

How? By eliminating the 31% middleman waste caused by the insurance bureaucracy.

Not a bit of irony here. They are two separate issues, though affected by the same corrupt political system.

Terrence Berres said...

"It [Healthy Wisconsin] does not use taxpayer money, it adds a 10.5% tax on the wages corporations pay, but that eliminates the 15% they are currently paying in healthcare premiums."

If you're willing to say that a tax does not use taxpayer money, have you considered that your arguments depend on accepting your definitions? Otherwise it's hard to see why you couldn't argue that a Workers Paradise Wisconsin, despite its 100% tax, does not use taxpayer money.

Jack Lohman said...

Why is this so difficult to understand? It is a tax on corporate wages paid and on employee wages -- not on the unemployed or on property.

Is this a perfect arrangement? Absolutely not. The best resolution is a national program -- a Medicare-for-all system – but conservatives would have kittens over this one too. See hr676.org for details.

First, we are all taxpayers, whether employed or not, and we all pay for everybody’s health care, whether we like it or not. So the real question is “How do we best deliver proper health care to everybody?” Unless, that is, you’re part of the “everybody for themselves” crowd, in which case you should stop reading.

Health care is not a commodity, it is a necessity like fire and police protection. People can quit buying TVs if they are out of their budget, but they can’t stop consuming health care (unless they want to become part of the 18,000 people who die annually because they can’t afford health care). One is elastic and the other inelastic. Most people do not enjoy sitting in the doctor’s office, but I agree that a few are hypochondriacs. But they are a very small part of the problem.

Can we jump through hoops and make health care available to only those who deserve it? Of course, by adding even more overhead than we already have and eliminating whatever compassion we have left.

Taxes and health care costs borne by corporations are all added to their product price and we (all) reimburse them at the cash register. For that reason I do not believe that corporations should be forced to bear either of these costs. Responsible corporations should not be taxed at all. Only irresponsible corporations should be taxed, including those with outlandish CEO salaries and who outsource their jobs. But these are the ones that make most of the campaign contributions, so don’t count on that soon.

Taxes and health care costs should be levied only against the population based progressively on income (including investment and all other income).

See http://tinyurl.com/2gy4m4

Jack Lohman said...

And when I say "It is a tax on corporate wages paid and on employee wages -- not on the unemployed or on property..." let me add that it is a tax far lower than that imposed on us by the make-work insurance bureaucracy that consumes 31% of our dollars without ever laying hands on a patient.

Most people feel that's a bargain, but the insurance industry it replaces does not.

Terrence Berres said...

"Why is this so difficult to understand?

Because you've said that Healthy Wisconsin "does not use taxpayer money", and "it adds a 10.5% tax on the wages corporations pay", and that "we are all taxpayers".

Aren't you just claiming it would better to replace health insurance purchased privately and voluntarily by employers and individuals with health insurance mandated by the government and paid for with taxes? If that's because of inelastic demand, why is a program like this more appropriate for health care than for food, clothing, and shelter?

I do note Healthy Wisconsin, with a single payer to the "consumer's" choice of providers, has some similarity to Milton Friedman's school voucher idea. Maybe you should try selling it that way.

Jack Lohman said...

Call it what you want, Terrence, I think I’ve made myself clear. If you are saying that you’d like to keep the current system to support the make-work insurance bureaucracy, we obviously disagree. This is not even in the best interests of the insurance workers, who could be retrained in the medical technology field.

We have a systemic problem where the health care interests are paying off the politicians to keep the status quo, and that should scare the hell out of Americans. We have rich CEOs driving their profits with denials of care. We can do better.

I won’t move this into a discussion on welfare, but we already have a system to help those with food, clothing and shelter. Right-wingers would have us eliminate those as well.