Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Why Do Out of State Persons Contribute to State Supreme Court Candidates?

So wonders our friend Tom Foley. After all, he says, "[i]t has no jurisdiction beyond these borders."

I don't blame Tom for blotting out memories of first year Civil Procedure (and, depending on one's practice, the question may not come up much in the daily life of a lawyer), but this is not quite true. Remember International Shoe and the rise of "minimum contacts? C'mon, say it with me. It'll only hurt for a moment. A state's courts may exercise jurisdiction over an out of state defendant who has minumum contacts with the state such that the exercise of jurisdiction will not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.

So Wisconsin courts can do all sorts of things that affect persons who reside outside of the state but have the requisite contacts. Consider that wonderful Milwaukee company, Rite Hite, who I still have the privilege of serving as general counsel. We do business in every state in the union and can probably be sued in every state. Thus, those with an interest in Rite Hite have lesser or greater interests in the quality of jurisprudence in every state. I don't know that anyone associated with the company has ever contributed to a judicial campaign outside the state, but there would be nothing illegitimate and nefarious if someone did.

As for Tom's hope that the new public financing law will put an end to the influence of out of state donors, he's going to be disappointed. In many races, it will have little effect in that the public grant - at least for the general election - is more than most candidates can raise. But it is not enough to run a state wide race and is a small fraction of what the independents are willing to spend on a competitive race. So the funding for this race is going to come - on both sides - largely from out of state interests. The Impartial Justice Act makes that more, rather than less likely. Even for candidates like Marla Stephens who turn down public funding - "reform" has made it impossible for candidates to raise money for their own campaigns (It was already nearly so as Butler and Gableman's own fundraising showed) and the public grants are woefully inadequate for a state wide race. The independent groups will fill the void.

5 comments:

John Foust said...

Uhm, bu.. Prof. Kingsfield? So you're saying the answer to "Why Do Out of State Persons Contribute to State Supreme Court Candidates?" is "Because they can" and "Because the candidate will remember who wrote the checks and act accordingly"?

Anonymous said...

Convicted Arizona fraudster Charles Keating, of Lincoln Savings & Loan Association infamy, answered the question posed in his candid admission: "Did I buy influence with my campaign contributions? I certainly hope so."

Anonymous said...

Bank robber Willie Sutton famously replied, "Because that's where the money is," in response to the question why he robbed banks. This principle is now referred to as Sutton's Law: in considering the answer to any question, first consider the obvious.

Why do out of state persons contribute to state supreme court candidates? State supreme court decisions can affect millions, even billions of dollars. Why do they give? Same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks. That's where the money is.

Anonymous said...

Why? Because the return on their investment is so high!

John Foust said...

IllyT did respond.