By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — The liberal group One Wisconsin Now wants cash so they can go after conservatives on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court — funding that would pay to investigate whether the governor’s office and the Republican-controlled Legislature have an undue influence on the high court.
In an email sent this week, One Wisconsin Now seeks donations to fund an open records request for all communications between Gov. Scott Walker, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and the members viewed as the conservative wing of the Supreme Court — Justices David Prosser, Mike Gableman, Annette Ziegler and Patience Roggensack.
The request could cost thousands of dollars, but is a “critical task,” One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross wrote in an email to supporters. One Wisconsin Now describes itself as espousing “progressive ideas, research and advocacy,” according to its website.
“Wisconsin is at a crossroads when it comes to a fair and impartial Supreme Court,” Ross wrote. “We have to get this information so that we know if corporate special interests and their lackeys like Walker and the Fitzgerald are putting their thumbs on the scales of justice.”
Katie McCallum, spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, declined to comment, as did Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesman Graeme Zielinski.
Members of different tea party organizations, including those who have had their own run-ins with One Wisconsin Now, either said they did not know about the open records issue or could not be reached for comment.
The relationships between and among the branches of state government have come under the microscope this year as part of the union battle over Walker’s bill to curtail collective bargaining for most of the state’s public union employees.
Those concerns have gained more traction since a special prosecutor’s decision not to file charges against Justices Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley, a member of the court’s liberal wing, in connection with an incident in June in which there were claims Prosser choked Bradley, and Bradley assaulted Prosser.
Just before the scuffle, the GOP-led state Assembly was poised to add the collective-bargaining changes into the state budget, despite a ruling from Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi invalidating the passage of the original legislation.
Meanwhile, a 4-3 majority of the high court that included Prosser was preparing to override Sumi’s order and to reinstate the collective-bargaining law.
Without that ruling, the Legislature would have to re-pass the legislation at the risk of reigniting the anger that drove tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol last spring.
On June 13, Bradley alleged, a discussion with Prosser over the Supreme Court’s ruling became heated, with Prosser putting his hands around her neck in choke-like maneuver.
“Often the goal with any kind of open records request like this is just to embarrass your political opponent,” University of Wisconsin political scientist David Canon told Wisconsin Reporter.
But Canon asserts that the issue in question — whether the branches of government are adequately fulfilling their checks-and-balances role — is worth pursuing.
“I think that is something that the citizens of Wisconsin should be concerned about,” he said. “We don’t want a politicized court to the point where they’re seen as an arm of the Legislature.”