The Joint Finance Committee approved language to publicly finance Supreme Court campaigns today on a partisan 11-4 vote. The margin demonstrates the extent to which having even a slim majority in both houses of the legislature benefits a party.
However, the four Republicans on the committee at least partially made up for the low votes with loud voices:
Republican Reps. Phil Montgomery and Robin Vos assailed the bill as “despicable” and “disgusting.” Vos said Democrats are prioritizing campaigns over job creation at a time of great financial distress for state residents.
“Your priority is all about politics over people,” Vos said.
Montgomery expressed concern that the fund could be accessed by future governors or Legislatures to balance the budget. He said the bill subverts democracy by taking Supreme Court elections out of the hands of the people and into “government control.”
It shows to what lengths politicians avoid looking to Washington for solutions when not one Wisconsin lawmaker suggests that the people might not be the best choosers of courts. Maybe the people are supposed to elect governments that do that. Since these legislators so fervently believe that the volk should be electing state judges, how can they possibly get to sleep at night when the highest court in the land is handpicked by presidents?
Despite the red herrings introduced by the Republicans, the vote was an encouraging step towards judicial reform in Wisconsin. If Michael Gableman’s election at the hands of narrow business interests does not prove that the system is broken, then Gableman’s use of the court to combat opposing financial interests almost certainly does.