I’m certainly not surprised by the recent revelations about Scott Walker’s unethical fundraising. I’m just depressed by yet another confirmation of the sorry state of American politics and the increasing corruption of the political system. I don’t enjoy being suspicious and cynical, but it’s getting a lot harder to maintain my Pollyanna side.
For those who missed the recent reporting, here’s one lede from the Wisconsin State Journal:
A new batch of leaked documents provides the most complete record yet of how Gov. Scott Walker raised millions of dollars for a supposedly independent, tax-exempt group during the 2011 and 2012 recalls — activity that prompted a now-halted John Doe investigation into whether Walker’s recall campaign circumvented state campaign finance law.
The newly revealed donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth included six-figure sums from a lead producer who later stood to benefit from changes slipped into the 2013-15 state budget.
In another article, expanding on the details of the “lead producer,” we read
One of the more tangible revelations found in the leaked documents is how money buys bad policy-making decisions. An example is how Harold Simmons, a man who owned a company that produced lead that used to be in paint, made $750,000 worth of donations to Walker in 2011 and 2012 and got Republicans to protect him from lawsuits.
The Guardian US posted more than 1,300 pages of documents online, detailing more of Walker’s corrupt behavior. It’s unclear how the newspaper got the documents, which were being held under seal.
These disclosures come just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a petition by prosecutors to overturn a Wisconsin Supreme Court 4-2 decision that quashed the investigation into Walker’s practices. The prosecutors bringing the petition argue, among other things, that conservative justices Michael Gableman and David Prosser should have recused themselves from the case.
Walker, in a May 2011 letter to Republican strategist Karl Rove, wrote that his chief political adviser R.J. Johnson ran the efforts to elect Gableman in 2008 and re-elect Prosser in 2011. Johnson was under investigation for his role in coordinating advertising for both the Walker recall campaign and Wisconsin Club for Growth, which is organized as a tax-exempt 501(c)4 group.
“Club for Growth—Wisconsin was the key to retaining Justice Prosser,” Walker wrote to Rove.
Johnson affirmed the group’s role in a December 2010 email to Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe, saying “Club is leading the coalition to maintain the court.”
In this case, “maintaining the court” evidently meant retaining judges who’d been bought and paid for. Engaging in such partisan activities is illegal for a tax-exempt 501(c)4 like the Club for Growth.
It’s bad enough when elected officials like Walker ignore the laws with impunity, but when quid pro quo politics infect the judicial process, it’s worse. The ability of citizens to rely upon the impartiality of jurists is a bulwark against inequality, corruption and tyranny.(And speaking of politics infecting the judiciary, when will the Senate discharge its constitutional duty to vote on the nomination of Merrick Garland??)
It’s all pretty sleazy.
Buying laws, neutering the courts….and we wonder why young people don’t trust “the system.”