Act 10 and Evers

C.J. Szafir and Collin Roth:

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mystery “The Adventure of Silver Blaze,” the dog that didn’t bark reveals the greater truth. The same might be said of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’s first state budget proposal. Derided by critics as a “liberal wish list,” Mr. Evers’s budget proposes to expand Medicaid, freeze school choice, overturn right to work, fund Planned Parenthood, add more than 700 government jobs, increase spending by $7 billion, and raise taxes by more than $1 billion.

But the budget dog that didn’t bark is the bigger story. Mr. Evers’s budget leaves alone former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 collective-bargaining reforms, known as Act 10, revealing that strong fiscal reforms can create a legacy that is practically impossible to unwind even when the political pendulum inevitably swings back.

Mr. Walker and a Republican-controlled Legislature passed Act 10 to solve a $3.6 billion state budget shortfall. The law, among other things, significantly limited public employee unions’ ability to bargain collectively and required public employees to pay more for their benefits—5.8% of pension contributions and 12.6% of health-care premiums.

This spurred political warfare in the Badger State. Nearly 100,000 activists descended on the State Capitol. Republican lawmakers received death threats. Democrats and labor unions that tried and failed to remove Mr. Walker in a 2012 recall election have pledged to overturn Act 10.

On the campaign trail last year, Mr. Evers enthusiastically promised to repeal it: “I fought against it as state superintendent. I spoke at the Capitol. I’ve seen the either unintended or intended consequences of it. I think collective bargaining is a right, and people should be able to do that.”

Yet as governor, Mr. Evers has been silent on repealing Act 10. No speeches. No executive orders or regulations. No bill requests. And not even a partial repeal of Act 10 in a state budget proposal packed with progressive priorities.

The reason is simple. Act 10 has become an integral part of how government operates in Wisconsin, from the statehouse in Madison down to local school districts. Rolling it back would cripple government finances and lead to higher taxes or curtailed government services.

When public employees were required to contribute more to their pensions and health care, every level of government in Wisconsin experienced enormous savings; the conservative MacIver Institute estimates more than $5 billion statewide, $3 billion of which has been realized by local school districts. The city of Milwaukee under two-time Scott Walker opponent Mayor Tom Barrett saved $20 million.

Savings from Act 10 bent the cost curve for public-employee benefits, keeping Wisconsin safe from Illinois-style fiscal disaster. “Act 10 has become so ingrained in operational savings that it would probably cost more than it has actually saved over the last eight years to try and repeal it,” said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, a former state assemblyman who voted for the reforms in 2011.

Without mandated collective bargaining with unions, local governments now have the freedom to make decisions on employee benefits that occur in the private economy every day. School districts can shop around for the best health-insurance plans rather than being forced to purchase union-supported plans. In the first year after Act 10’s passage, the Elmbrook School District saved $2.6 million on health-care costs alone through changes to their health plan and increased employee contributions.

Many school superintendents won’t admit it publicly, but weakened teachers unions have given them unprecedented freedom to make important decisions about the schools they oversee. The ability to offer better pay and incentives has school districts across the state competing for the best teachers.

“Act 10 changed the way we as school administrators do business,” says John Humphries, school superintendent in rural Thorp and a 2017 candidate for state superintendent. “The relationship between management and teachers is much easier. We as administrators have to do things to retain teachers because of the new marketplace.”

This new market for teaching talent has had a significant positive effect on student outcomes. A 2018 report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty concluded that Act 10 led to higher math test scores in the state. A 2016 study found no difference between Wisconsin’s student-teacher ratios and gross teacher salaries and those in Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, which, at the time, had not enacted similar reforms.

The Evers administration didn’t respond to our requests for comment. But it’s likely that what candidate Tony Evers did not understand, Gov. Tony Evers now does. The fiscal and collective-bargaining reforms of Act 10 ushered in an era of political tumult in Wisconsin, but they also unlocked savings and unleashed government innovation. This makes even proposing going back to the pre-Act 10 days unrealistic.

Act 10 is a reminder that good policy transcends partisan politics. Reform-minded governors and Washington politicians should take note.

Which is not surprising. The chances of Evers’ getting Act 10 changes through the Legislature are presently zero, and will remain zero as long as Republicans control one house of the Legislature. Act 10 changes will be opposed by superintendents, school boards and taxpayers.

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Nothing you delete ever really gets deleted

The continuing war between the news media and Republicans reached Wisconsin in a strange way last week.

On Tuesday I got this email at work from Carly Atchison of the National Republican Congressional Committee:

Hey there – 

Where does Ron Kind stand on leaving a newborn baby alone to die on the delivery room floor?

For weeks, socialist Democrats have blocked a bill requiring doctors to provide care for babies who survive an abortion, so now House Republicans are trying to force a vote using a discharge petition.    

Republicans proposed the Born Alive Survivors’ Protection Act in response to far-left efforts in New York and Virginia to legalize abortions up to the moment of birth, and even after birth in the case of racist Ralph Northam. 

In the wake of those efforts, polling shows a dramatic swing in voters who now identify as pro-life.

To force a vote, at least 218 members of Congress must sign the discharge petition. Will Ron Kind be one of those 218?

Before we resume: I get a ton of these emails from both parties and organizations that support both parties. They never appear in the newspaper, because they are never news. Nor does anything from a politician who does not represent anyone who reads the newspaper, for the same reason.

Politicians and political groups tend to send self-promotional (either directly or indirectly by bashing the opponent or opposing party) emails whether or not the targeted media outlet is likely to run them. That could explain, I suppose, why that particular email went to the Cheese Reporter, a Madison-based publication whose stance on abortion rights is unknown if not nonexistent.

The correct response to irrelevant political emails is to (1) ignore them, (2) trash them or (3) label them as spam or junk mail. None of those were the response of Cheese Reporter assistant editor Moira Crowley, who emailed back instead:

As you can guess by what you’re reading, Atchison did not leave it there, sending an email to Crowley’s employer …

… and the Washington Examiner picks up the story from there:

According to emails provided to the Washington Examiner, Atchison replied: “Moira – My personal story is none of your business, but suffice to say your comments are personally hurtful and disgusting. There is an unsubscribe button at the bottom of the email. I hope you learn to conduct yourself in a more professional manner and pray that the hatred you hold in your heart heals. -Carly.”

The reply from Crowley’s account was: “Oh, I unsubscribed Carly. And I just donated $50 to Planned Parenthood in your name.” The Cheese Reporter’s slogan is: “Serving the World’s Dairy Industry Weekly since 1876.”

Facing an immediate backlash when Atchison shared the first email, Crowley, 45, told the Washington Examiner, via the same email address: “Our email has been compromised and the message is fake.”
The @cheesereporter Twitter account sent out a message: “Recently, one of our employee’s email was hacked and deplorable messages were transmitted. Cheese Reporter and the employee ask for your understanding during this difficult time and in no way does Cheese Reporter or the employee condone or endorse any of these hacked messages.”

Another message from @cheesereporter said: “For those who recently began following us for the hacked comments, please unfollow our Twitter account as we do not want to be a messenger for your beliefs.” …

Cheese Reporter is a newspaper and website based in Madison, Wis. It bills itself as “the leading newspaper serving the world’s cheese manufacturing and milk processing industries every week.”
The publication’s previously most political communication appears to have been a tweet sent just after Trump’s inauguration saying: “Obama left office with a pretty noteworthy record when it comes to policy that will be difficult for Trump to top.”

For what it’s worth, there are left-wing farmers. Just look at the National Farmers Union, and I would guess that organic farmers are generally more left than right, though I know that is not universally the case. Nevertheless, I think the percentage of farmers who voted for Hillary Clinton instead of Trump is rather small.

The political inclinations of farmers are not the issue here. The issue is the unprofessional conduct of a member of the news media, who instead of ignoring an email that didn’t adhere to her apparent political views and/or unsubscribing, felt the need to share her views on a topic that is not relevant to her work or her employer using her employer’s resources. (No, I do not believe the email hack story.) Once upon a time that was a firing offense.

Of course, in the way that even a driver hit by another car is legally partially at fault because the driver was there (if the driver wasn’t there, no crash happens), the NRCC probably needs to update its email list. Cheese Farmer might be interested in Congressional Republicans’ positions on issues affecting dairy farmers, but from what I’ve seen of NRCC emails they are less informational than attempting to get people in the media to write opinion pieces about how horrible those Democrats are and how wonderful those Republicans are.

 

Irrational exuberance

New York Magazine:

In Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race last year, Democrat Tony Evers defeated Scott Walker by one percent statewide — but won a majority of votes in only36 of the state’s 99 Assembly districts. That same night, Democratic candidates won 53 percent of all ballots cast for the state Assembly, even as Republicans won a 27-seat majority in that body.

In other words: The 2018 midterms confirmed that the GOP has gerrymandered Wisconsin’s electoral maps so aggressively, it will be essentially impossible for the Democratic Party to gain control of that (purple) state’s legislature until its maps are redrawn.

This point was not lost on the Wisconsin GOP. Immediately following Evers’s victory, Republicans convened a special legislative session to transfer powers from the popularly elected branch of government that Democrats had just won to the undemocratically elected branch that the GOP couldn’t lose.

These developments forced Wisconsin Democrats to confront a harrowing possibility: that their triumph in the governor’s race would not stop the GOP from locking up the state legislature for another decade. In 2021, Wisconsin will redraw all its electoral maps to comport with the new census. And Evers will have the power to veto any gerrymander the legislature enacts. But Republicans could reject that veto, and bring a lawsuit claiming that the legislature has authority over redistricting. And if the conservative majority on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court buys that argument — just as it bought the GOP’s case for the constitutionality of voter-ID laws and union-busting measures (that likely cost Democrats the Badger State in 2016) — then it will be game over. And Democrats will be all but incapable of governing Wisconsin before 2030.

But there was one way out of this maddening impasse. In 2019 and 2020, Wisconsin would hold Supreme Court elections. And if liberal judges could win both those contests — which would be settled by the good old-fashioned popular vote — then Democrats would ensure their influence over redistricting. And not only that: A liberal State Supreme Court could also roll back the GOP legislature’s power grab, its various voter-suppression efforts, and perhaps even its assault on collective-bargaining rights.

What’s more, liberals were in prime position to win the 2020 Supreme Court election, as it would be held the same day as the state’s presidential primaries — when Democrats are expected to turn out in far larger numbers than Republicans, since their party’s nomination will be hotly contested, while Donald Trump is all but certain to win renomination in a cakewalk.

So, to liberate Wisconsin from anti-democratic rule, all Democrats really had to worry about was winning this year’s Supreme Court election. And in a rare stroke of luck, Wisconsin conservatives managed to rally behind a reactionary judge so extreme, two of the GOP’s most reliable donors — the state’s Chamber of Commerce and Realtors Association — could not bring themselves to support him. Specifically, Judge Brian Hagedorn had written that the NAACP was a “disgrace to America,” and that homosexual intercourse should be a criminal offense because the “idea that homosexual behavior is different than bestiality as a constitutional matter is unjustifiable.” The judge had also recently cofounded a K-8 Christian school in the Milwaukee suburbs that does not allow LGBT teachers, students, or parents on its campus.

His liberal counterpart, Wisconsin Court of Appeals chief justice Lisa Neubauer, had no similar baggage. And she had a commanding advantage in fundraising for most the race. Some conservative groups resigned themselves to her victory weeks before Tuesday’s election.

So, a lot of Wisconsin Democrats are suffering from a bad case of 2016 déjà vu this morning:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court race that liberals needed to win to have a shot at taking majority control of the court next year appeared headed for a recount, with the conservative candidate declaring victory while holding a narrow lead following Tuesday’s election.

… Conservative Brian Hagedorn, who was Walker’s chief legal counsel for five years, led liberal-backed Lisa Neubauer by 5,911 votes out of 1.2 million cast, based on unofficial results. That is a difference of about 0.49 percentage point, close enough for Neubauer to request a recount but she would have to pay for it.

Hagedorn declared victory early Wednesday morning.

It’s conceivable that a recount could throw the election to Neubauer (so conceivable, Republicans are already laying the groundwork for delegitimizing such a result). But, for the moment, it appears that, while we were all debating a presidential primary that’s still ten months away, many progressives slept through an immensely consequential — and, by most accounts, easily winnable — election against a reactionary bigot in Wisconsin (again).

 

 

The April election hangover blog

Today’s blog continues a tradition that began decades ago with a Wisconsin Public Television “WeekEnd” show the Friday after an election.

Dan O’Donnell analyzes the Supreme Court election (assuming the recount doesn’t change the result, about which more later):

Brian Hagedorn was a dead man walking. Michael Screnock’s 12-point drubbing a year ago seemed like a best-case scenario. His liberal opponent had an overwhelming fundraising advantage, hundreds of thousands of dollars more in support from Eric Holder’s PAC and Planned Parenthood, and the residual wave of Governor Evers’ stunning upset just five months earlier.

Hagedorn couldn’t possibly win, not with the endless news reports about his old blog posts, Christian school policies, and Alliance Defending Freedom speeches.

His campaign was less a victory march than it was a march to the electoral gallows.

Just as importantly, the institutional conservative movement behind him was in shambles.

Finger-pointing over Governor Walker’s loss led to an overhaul of the Wisconsin Republican Party in the middle of Hagedorn’s campaign, and the Wisconsin Realtors Association’s very public rebuke of him left him politically toxic.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce refused to spend on his behalf, thinking that his was a lost cause. One could hardly blame them, either. Nobody, it seemed, gave Hagedorn even a puncher’s chance.

Yet Hagedorn punched anyway, and punched back so hard that it got Wisconsin’s vaunted conservative grassroots off the mat and in his corner. His campaign, to borrow Rocky’s tagline, was a million-to-one shot, but the grassroots were willing to take it with him even if no one else was.

New Republican Party leader Mark Jefferson returned power and autonomy to local party branches to coordinate get-out-the-vote efforts, Americans for Prosperity led the way in voter contacts, and even the voters themselves made phone calls, sent texts, and posted Facebook messages stressing to everyone they knew the importance of this race.

It is, of course, still too close to call and as of this writing well within the margin for a recount, but Hagedorn has also built enough of a lead that it will almost certainly hold. In the 27 statewide recounts over the past 20 years, the average swing was just 282 votes. The largest swing ever was 1,247 votes in the infamous Florida recount of 2000.

Once Hagedorn is sworn in, conservatives will take a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court and, more importantly, indemnify themselves against the possibility of losing control next year. Had Hagedorn lost, the resulting 4-3 conservative majority would have likely been turned into a 4-3 liberal majority in the Spring of 2020 when incumbent conservative justice Dan Kelly has to run on the same ballot as the Democratic presidential primary.

The inherent liberal advantage there would have meant a near-insurmountable hill to climb, but if Hagedorn’s win should remind Wisconsin of anything, it’s that grassroots conservative activism is capable of pulling off major upsets.

A significant reason is acute awareness of the significance of the stakes. Once it was understood that this year’s race was essentially for control of the Court, conservatives steeled their resolve. Once they recognized that Hagedorn was essentially being attacked for his Christian beliefs, their resolve turned titanium.

Repeated attacks on mainstream Christian beliefs as being disqualifying for public office backfired spectacularly, as untold thousands of Christian conservatives (and, anecdotally, even a handful of Christian liberals) viewed them as a personal affront.

That was the ultimate motivator, as it provided a flashpoint for the pervading sense that liberalism was encroaching on Wisconsin’s values. First it was Holder’s hundreds of thousands trying to buy the Court, and then it was his allied groups intimating that a hateful Christian like Hagedorn, like you, wasn’t morally fit to sit on it.

This led voters to personally identify with Hagedorn in a way that they never did with Screnock or even winning candidates like Rebecca Bradley, David Prosser, Michael Gableman, and Annette Ziegler. All of them won hard-fought races and were predictably demonized on their way to the Court, but none experienced the intensely personal persecution that Hagedorn did.

That bonded conservatives to him and turned casual participants in this race into active supporters willing to go the extra mile for him. It wasn’t just that liberals were going to take over the Court, they were going to make sure someone like Hagedorn, like you, could never possibly hope to sit on it ever again.

This, apparently, was all it took to re-engage conservatives and re-awaken Wisconsin’s sleeping giant. Looming large now is the recount, but what lingers from this race is the sense that conservatism in this state can never be counted out.

J.R. Ross Tweeted the following, which is why it reads as it does:

Some notes on things I picked up last week and wrote about at :

Conservatives sensed an uptick in enthusiasm among their base, whether it was due to budget, Dane County rulings against lame-duck session laws, the Mueller report, etc. …

? was if there was $ and ground game to capture it. came in late with $; latest report shows more than $1.2 million in spending over final week. Groups such as AFP, WFA, Susan B. Anthony, WRTL, AMA, FreedomWorks reported IE work on behalf of

Another question was whether had done enough to excite the liberal base or if the knocks on over his views, blog posts, being legal counsel were enough.

ran a very traditional SCt race, insiders said. Focused on experience, endorsements and often avoided specifying positions. was more explicit in his views, more like ’18 race.

also had superior air cover. I saw today had her and Greater Wisconsin outspending and RSLC by more than $2M on broadcast, cable, radio.

If holds lead, changes dynamic of ’20 race, which looks to be uphill fight for conservative Justice Kelly. Would put conservative majority back to 5-2, meaning they’d hold court even if liberals win next year. Dem prez primary expected 2 be big influence on turnout

Oh, and for those looking to make a definitive statement on ’20 prez race off tonight, remember: won by 11.5 points April ’18 won by 1.1 points Nov. ’18

In ’08, conservative SCt candidate Gableman knocked off liberal incumbent Justice Butler with 51.2 % that April. That November, won Wisconsin with 56.2 %. But you do you, social media. Hyperventilate away.

Charlie Sykes Tweeted that, as well as …

GOP pol texts me: “The base is awake”…. reacting to what they see as Dem overreach in WI…

How is Neubauer taking this? This reportedly is a new fundraising email from Neubauer’s campaign:

“Judge Lisa Neubauer is a fair, independent, and impartial, and she was running against an avowed homophobe, who founded a private school that embedded discrimination into their mission and who gave multiple paid speeches to a hate group.

We’re disappointed that this race is too close to call, but we’re not defeated. This campaign isn’t over, and we need your support to ensure that every vote gets counted — please chip in $20.19 today.

Dark-money right-wing forces want to win this race so they can keep rigging legislative district maps in Wisconsin.

So they can continue to strip powers from the Democratic Governor and give them to Republican leaders in the Legislature.

Brian Schimming explains what may happen next:

Having co-directed Justice David Prosser’s recount effort with Judge Jim Troupis in 2011, I’ve been getting a ton of messages and inquiries. Let me offer a few top-of-the-mind thoughts …

– Judge Hagedorn’s lead is approximately 5,800 out of 1.2 million cast statewide. Prosser’s was 7,316 out of almost 1.5 million
– The counties will very likely conduct their official “county canvas” next week, send results to state Elections Commission who will then, presumably, certify it. Judge Neubauer will then have a prescribed number of days to request a recount.
– Judge Hagedorn’s current unofficial margin is less than one per cent so Judge Neubauer would be, by statute, eligible to ask for a recount. But since the margin is more than .25 per cent, she would be required to “pay” a determined fee for the costs. She also could only partially recount as well.
– Post-county canvas, the likelihood of the result being changed or dramatically altered is infinitesimally low. After the 2011 recount Justice Prosser’s margin only dropped a little over 300 votes statewide.

Having said all this – we may need to get to the barricades, people. Not speaking for the campaign here, but it is completely plausible, if Judge Neubauer”s campaign even appears to be moving into a recount posture, hundreds of volunteers will be needed on short notice statewide to monitor the county canvas and/or a full or partial recount. Many of you stepped up for us in a big way in the 2011 effort and I know I speak for Justice Prosser when I say he is eternally and most sincerely grateful.

Could be “Deja by all over again.” Stand by, we’ll see.

As I’m given to declare at moments like this: “This is The Truth until Further Notice.”

There will be those who decry the nastiness (yet again) and all the money spent on this race. Most of those people will fail to grasp why this is the case. Since the court system has now become the third branch of the Legislature, the rules of partisan politics now apply to the court system. To quote UCLA football coach Red Sanders, winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.

$2 billion Tony, or D means Deficit

Benjamin Yount:

Republican lawmakers in Madison knew Gov. Tony Evers would want to spend more and raise taxes. He campaigned on it.

But Republicans at the statehouse now say they’re shocked at just how much Evers’ proposed budget would spend.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau this week said Evers’ two-year state budget would spend $2 billion more than Wisconsin has to spend.

Whom to vote for today

The only election of 2019 (thank God) is today.

I start with an unusual confession of sorts. I almost never vote in races where there is only one candidate on the ballot. I also rarely vote for liberals.

I am violating — more accurately I violated, since I voted Friday to foil anyone who would seek to take away my vote by killing, injuring or kidnapping me — both of these rules by voting for Jennifer Nashold for the state Court of Appeals District 1 seat on the ballot.

In the People’s Republic of Madison, there is a mayoral race that is too bizarre to believe anywhere but in Madison. Mayor-for-Life Paul Soglin is the preferred candidate by the few non-liberals that exist in Madison because his opponent, Satya Rhodes-Conway, is an even less desirable candidate than Soglin. Faced with that decision, I’d move. (I did, of course, in 1988.)

The Madison School Board includes only two candidates worthy of anyone’s vote — Kaleem Caire, who believes minority school children should not be stuck with bad schools (he started one), and David Blaska, who the thought police have failed to eject from Madison despite their best efforts (including, in Blaska’s case, threats). Each represents a challenge to the status quo that has resulted in Madison schools’ slipping from arguably the best in the state when I was in school to now …

… schools that are actually worse than the state average, but as an added bonus school board meetings disrupted by people who oppose police in schools because they apparently are OK with allowing unruly students to ruin the educational experience for everyone. If I lived in Madison I would vote for Caire and Blaska and then move.

The race that really counts, of course, is the state Supreme Court, which features a choice between a professional Democrat who interprets the laws as she wants, and someone who doesn’t.

First, James Wigderson:

When Dane County Judge Richard Niess swept away the laws passed during the December Extraordinary Session of the legislature not only did he knock out the laws that were passed, he voided the 82 appointments made by former Governor Scott Walker that were approved by the state Senate.

An Appeals Court issued a stay on Wednesday, reinstating the laws that were passed. However, some damage was done, and we’re waiting to see if Wisconsin will be allowed to withdraw from the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, as Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul announced before the stay was issued.

But also hanging in limbo are the appointments made by Walker. While they (and most reasonable people) may have assumed that the Appeals Court order meant that they could go back to work, the Evers Administration actually had security prevent Public Service Commission (PSC) member Ellen Nowak from returning to work. Nowak, who has a long and distinguished career of public service, was prevented from entering the building because Evers is claiming that he rescinded the appointments before the stay and therefore his decision stands to not have Nowak serve.

It was an really outrageous act by Evers, and we hope that the matter will eventually be resolved with Nowak returning to work without being barred by armed guards.

Wisconsin deserves better than this constitutional crisis cooked up by Evers and a Dane County judge. The cases surrounding the Extraordinary Session will end up in the Wisconsin Supreme Court who will have to decide if, as the Constitution says, the legislature sets its own rules on when it can meet.

A Democratic majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court would mean that Dane County judges, not the state legislature, will write the laws of Wisconsin. However, if we keep a conservative majority on the Supreme Court by voting to elect Judge Brian Hagedorn on Tuesday, then we assure that whatever chaos Evers and his Dane County judicial allies stir up will eventually be overturned and the rule of law will prevail.

If you haven’t voted yet, we cannot stress enough the importance of voting on Tuesday.

Next, C.J. Szafir:

For 10 years, at least a majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has generally remained committed to the rule of law and faithful to the text of the Constitution. But when one considers what a more activist judiciary would look like, it’s easier to fully appreciate the stakes for Tuesday’s election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court between Judge Brian Hagedorn and Judge Lisa Neubauer.

In 2006, Judge Diane Sykes of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals gave a seminal lecture to Marquette Law School reviewing a recent term of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Court’s majority had recently authored a major decision expanding tort liability for businesses, specifically permitting lawsuits against lead paint manufacturers even if the plaintiff could not identify the business that manufactured the paint causing injury. Their other opinions changed state law to remove the state’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases and reinterpreted the Constitution to penalize law enforcement by mandating suppression of evidence if police failed to give Miranda warnings.

Sykes concluded that the Court’s judicial philosophy was “pure unvarnished result-oriented” and their decisions were akin to “impos[ing] its own solutions to what it perceives to be important public policy problems—civil and criminal—rather than deferring to the political process.”  

Similar critiques were echoed nationally. As a result of the Court’s decisions, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board blasted Wisconsin as a “favorite trial lawyer destination” and one that would “soon have every trial lawyer in America descending on the state.”

In 2008, Judge Michael Gableman beat incumbent Justice Louis Butler, flipping the ideological balance of the Court and ushering in a more judicially “restrained” (some may say “conservative”) majority, which focused less on policy outcomes and more on the text of the statute and Constitution. This majority was strengthened in 2016 with the election of Justice Rebecca Bradley and appointment of Justice Dan Kelly on the Court by Governor Scott Walker. Originalism and textualism became more mainstream.

Yet, had the 2008 or 2016 (and other elections) gone differently, the last decade of Wisconsin Supreme Court jurisprudence would likely have rolled back a number of conservative priorities. To appreciate the importance of judicial philosophy, one only needs to only look at the dissents of Justice Shirley Abrahamson – who’s legacy Neubauer supports. Consider:

Act 10: Walker’s historic collective bargaining reform law had to survive a number of legal challenges. Once in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, it was finally upheld on a strong 5-2 vote. But Abrahamson dissented, essentially arguing that unions had some sort of constitutional right to organize, something that is completely unfounded in the Wisconsin Constitution.

Concealed Carry: In a case about interpreting the concealed carry law, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2017 held that the City of Madison had no authority, under state law, to ban firearms on buses. From a judges’ standpoint, it was a clear case; state law prohibited cities from passing ordinances restricting someone’s ability to carry a firearm than what was enacted in state law. The City of Madison had clearly done so. Yet Abrahamson disagreed and if the dissent held the day, municipalities would have had an easier time to carve out exceptions to the Concealed Carry laws.

Voter ID: Walker and the Republicans in the legislature signed a voter ID law that requires voters to show photo identification when they go to the polls. After a legal challenge, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the law. Once again, Abrahamson led with a vigorous dissent, comparing the majority’s decision to “Jim Crow”, even though Wisconsin’s voter ID law is commonplace and burdens with obtaining a photo ID not onerous.

School Choice: While not in the last decade, I would be remiss not to point out Abrahamson’s dissent in a 1998 Wisconsin Supreme Court case that upheld the constitutionality of the Milwaukee school voucher program. Had her ideology carried the day, the school voucher program would unlikely exist, at least in its current form. Neubauer on the campaign trail would not comment on her thoughts about the Establishment Clause and constitutionality of school choice. More on this here.

Fast forward to today. There’s no question that a Wisconsin Supreme Court full of judicial activists would send Wisconsin back generations, chipping away – or flat out reversing – a number of conservative priorities and Walker reforms. When judges insert their own policy preferences – instead of the text of the constitution and statute – we get “pure unvarnished result-oriented” decisions. The importance of the Constitution is diminished. The separation between the legislature and judiciary blurs.

This is why when Wisconsinites go to the polls on Tuesday April 2, they should first read about the candidates’ judicial philosophy (or watch the recent Marquette University Law School debate) to determine for themselves which candidate will be faithful to the text of the constitution and the law, regardless of their political beliefs.

Since today’s winner will replace Justice Shirley Abrahamson, the mix on the court won’t change if Hagedorn loses. A Hagedorn loss, however, would not only be a voter mistake like all of the statewide elections were last November, it would prove that a majority of state voters are religious bigots who hate conservative Christians and fail the U.S. Constitution’s Article V, clause 3, that states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Cast the right votes today, if you haven’t already.

 

Off target on trade

Jonah Goldberg:

Trump said Friday: “I’ll just close the border, and with a deficit like we have with Mexico and have had for many years, closing the border will be a profit-making operation.” …

This is hardly the first time the president has said this type of thing. He’s often claimed that tariffs are essentially profitable because other countries pay them (they don’t).  In September he said “China’s now paying us billions of dollars in tariffs and hopefully we’ll be able to work something out.” And there was this:

….I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN

If you don’t understand why the president’s statements are wrong, this post isn’t for you. But closing the border would, among other things, throw the supply chains of various American businesses into a tailspin. Also, trade deficits aren’t like budget deficits which reflect spending in excess of revenue. I have a trade deficit with my cigar shop, barber shop, supermarket and liquor store. They get my money and I get goods and services in return. Here are some explainers.

Anyway, what I’m sincerely curious about is what Trump supporters think of stuff like this. Do they think he understands how trade works and just deceives the public in order to sell protectionist policies or tactics? Or do Trump supporters think that he honestly believes that closing the border with Mexico would be profitable and that China and other trading partners pay tariffs instead of American consumers? Does he really think trade deficits are akin to budget deficits?

On the latter theory, one could, I suppose, make the case that this is brilliant statecraft; by sending the signal that he actually believes these untrue things, he makes his protectionist threats more believable. One hears this sort of thing often. He’s a free trader, but he’s using protectionism to get to a desirable goal. (But as Charlie Cooke often notes, the same people often also defend tariffs as good things in and of themselves. If tariffs are so “profitable,” why pursue free trade at all?).

This is of a piece with the “chessmaster” school of Trumpology. It seems to me this is a very hard theory to support. You’d have to believe that Trump’s tendency to say whatever comes into his mind is a ruse or a façade and that he in fact has incredible message discipline, refraining from ever once speaking accurately about his true feelings or betraying his real knowledge of how trade actually works.

It’s a sincere question. Whenever I hear versions of it asked of Trump administration officials, the answers are usually evasive. Such as: “Look, the president hears arguments on all sides of the issue” (I’ve heard one Trump official say this in four different off-the-record settings).  Another reply one often hears on TV is “I may not see eye-to-eye with the president on every aspect of trade, but at least I know he’s fighting for American workers and putting America first.”

That’s all fine as political handwaving or statements of emotional support. But my question remains: Does the president know the facts and is therefore deceiving the public about his beliefs or is he truly ignorant of some of the most basic concepts of one of his signature issues?

Or, is there some way to square this circle I am missing? I am eager to hear it if so (Oh, and a pro-tip for folks on Twitter and even in the comment section, “Shut up you RINO asshat” is not a dispositive answer to the question).

I specifically want to hear from Wisconsinites who defend this:
Trump’s trade war(s) are hurting Wisconsinites and Wisconsin farmers. You cannot support this state’s farmers and support this.

Two constitutional violations in one

State Sen. Duey Strobel (R–Cedarburg):

On Tuesday, April 2 Wisconsin voters have a choice between two very different candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court. Brian Hagedorn has focused his campaign on one simple message – judges should say what the law is, not what they wish it to be. His opponent, Lisa Neubauer, has refused to articulate any coherent judicial philosophy. Instead of debating on substance, she has either directly leveled personal attacks or has sat back and watched as the media has done her dirty work.

Last week’s decision out of Dane County finding the legislature’s special session bills unconstitutional should serve as a wakeup call throughout the state. The stakes could not be higher.

The philosophy advanced by Brian’s opponent is nothing more than a poorly veiled political doctrine. Instead of tracking closely the unambiguous and plain meaning of statutory language, like the Dane County judge, Neubauer believes a judge has the power to “correct” the legislature when it has advanced a policy that it believes to be “unjust.” While judges must certainly serve as guardians of constitutional rights, they should only exercise authority when legislative acts are clearly inconsistent with core constitutional principles.

Correcting what it views as “bad” policy is nothing more than tyranny of the judiciary. And this is exactly the philosophy advanced by Neubauer and her special interest allies like Planned Parenthood.

But there is even more at stake on April 2. The attack on Brian and his family has been nothing more than a character assassination, carefully orchestrated by Neubauer and executed by her media compatriots. The attack began with the unearthing of various blog posts authored by Brian. Anything written is fair game during a campaign. However, what has transpired since then should shake to the core any voter.

Not satisfied to simply hold Brian accountable for past writings, Neubauer and the media turned their collective attention to Brian’s speaking engagements before Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a respected national organization that prides itself on “defending Christians to protect religious freedom for all.” The discredited Southern Poverty Law Center has wrongly characterized ADF as a “hate group.” So naturally Neubauer’s media henchmen immediately advanced the theory that Brian had previously been paid a meager stipend to speak to a “hate” group.

And in truly Orwellian move, Neubauer and the media attacked Brian and wife for starting a private school. Their offense? Expecting students, parents, and teachers to adhere to widely-held traditional values, views presumably still held by the Catholic Church, the Wisconsin and Missouri Synods of the Lutheran faith, Baptists, and numerous other Protestants denominations. Nevertheless, that has not stopped the media from targeting Brian and even the parents of children who have decided to send children to the religious based school.

The attacks have had the intended result. In addition to painting Brian, a committed husband and father who has honorably served as a Supreme Court Law Clerk, an Assistant Attorney General, Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Scott Walker, and now a respected Court of Appeals Judge, as an unqualified bigot, it has resulted in otherwise conservative allies wilting under the scrutiny. The Wisconsin Realtors Association withdrew their support and requested a return of a relatively sizable donation. Then the national Chamber of Commerce indicated it would not work with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce in financially supporting Brian’s efforts. Both moves were interpreted as extremely harmful to Brian’s prospects.

Make no mistake. In addition to attempting to eliminate a conservative judicial philosophy from the Wisconsin political landscape, Neubauer and her allies are attempting to eliminate those of faith from the public square. Who they wish to take their place are those who adhere to the philosophy advanced by Neubauer, one premised on the supreme nature of the judicial branch with its members sitting as overlords over the meager people’s representatives. And along with this super-technocratic view comes disdain for people of faith. Sadly, these sorts of attacks have resulted in otherwise strong allies of judicial conservatives creeping into the shadows, afraid of also being labeled a hate group by the media and other members of the PC Police.

Don’t back down.

Every reader should be familiar with the beginning of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” but should be familiar with Article VI section 3, which ends, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

 

$1.3 billion in lies

Remember when Gov. Tony Evers said there would be no tax increases? (He told me so. Really.)

Then Evers proclaimed that $1.3 billion in tax increases aren’t really tax increases.

The Badger Institute evaluates Evers’ 1.3 billion lies:

With the release of his first biennial budget, introduced as Senate Bill 59, Wisconsin’s new Governor Tony Evers (D) has proposed dozens of miscellaneous tax changes. While the budget  offers targeted income tax cuts for certain low- and middle-income taxpayers, these cuts are far outweighed by tax increases elsewhere, such as business taxes and excise taxes. Taken as a whole, these changes would make Wisconsin’s tax code more complex and less neutral, missing an opportunity to provide tax relief within the context of pro-growth structural reform.

Individual Income Tax Changes

The most notable of the proposed individual income tax changes is the creation of a credit to reduce tax liability for individuals making less than $100,000 and families making less than $150,000. This proposal comes as no surprise, as Gov. Evers campaigned on a 10 percent tax cut for taxpayers with income below those thresholds, but the budget provides new details about the credit’s structure.

Under the proposal, a “Family and Individual Reinvestment” or “FAIR” credit would be available only to taxpayers with Wisconsin adjusted gross income (WAGI) below $100,000 (single filers) or $150,000 (married filing jointly). This nonrefundable credit would be claimed after most other credits are applied, reducing tax liability by 10 percent or $100 ($50 for married taxpayers filing separately), whichever is greater. This credit would begin to phase out once income reaches $80,000 (single filers) or $125,000 (married filers), phasing out completely at $100,000 and $150,000, respectively. Expected to cost $833.5 million over two years, this credit would become Wisconsin’s second-largest individual income tax credit after the School Property Tax Credit.

The budget also proposes increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Currently, Wisconsin taxpayers who are eligible to claim the federal EITC may claim a percentage of the federal credit against their state tax liability. The refundable state credit is offered at 4 percent for families with one child, 11 percent for families with two children, and 34 percent for families with three or more children. The governor’s proposal would increase the credit to 11 percent for families with one child and 14 percent for families with two children, while keeping it at 34 percent for families with three or more children.

Further, the budget would create a new child and dependent care credit in lieu of Wisconsin’s existing “subtraction for child and dependent care expenses.” Taxpayers eligible for the federal child and dependent care tax credit would be eligible to claim 50 percent of the same amount on their Wisconsin tax return.

Beyond that, the governor’s budget would replace a scheduled across-the-board income tax rate reduction with a rate reduction to the lowest bracket only. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., Wisconsin began requiring online retailers to collect and remit Wisconsin’s sales tax. In December 2018, Act 368 was signed into law, allocating any increased revenue from “out-of-state retailers” collected between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019 to across-the-board individual income tax rate reductions. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has projected an estimated $60 million increase in online sales tax collections during that period, which would allow for a 0.04 percentage point rate reduction to each of Wisconsin’s four marginal income tax rates in tax year 2019. However, the governor’s budget proposes changing that law so only the 4 percent income tax rate, which applies to only the first $11,760 in marginal taxable income, would be reduced.

Finally, the budget proposes changes to the tax treatment of capital gains. Wisconsin’s tax code allows a 30 percent deduction on net capital gains for assets held for more than one year (for farm assets, it’s 60 percent of net capital gains). This income is excluded from a taxpayer’s capital gains tax basis to help ensure investors are taxed on their real gains, not their nominal gains. This exclusion is currently available to all investors, but the governor’s proposal would limit the exclusion so it can only be claimed on capital gains income when a taxpayer’s combined noncapital gains income and capital gains income is below $100,000 (single filers) or $150,000 (married filers).

The aforementioned changes would provide income tax relief to low- and middle-income taxpayers, but would do so by narrowing the tax base, making the tax code less neutral, and adding unnecessary complexity to the income tax system. It’s important to keep in mind that Wisconsin already offers numerous income tax credits and deductions to provide targeted tax relief to low- and middle-income residents. Provisions like the refundable EITC and refundable homestead credit allow many lower-income Wisconsin residents to receive a net income tax refund. The sliding-scale standard deduction, available only to those with incomes less than $103,500 (single) or $121,009 (married), reduced tax collections by $857 million in FY 2018. With provisions like these already exclusively benefiting low- and middle-income residents, the introduction of a new credit into the mix would be duplicative and further complicate tax filing. A simpler, more neutral approach to individual income tax relief would be to reduce tax rates within the existing framework, or better yet, reduce tax rates while creating a more growth-friendly tax structure.

Business Tax Changes

The governor’s budget includes tax changes that would impact businesses in certain industries. Specifically, the proposal would make the nonrefundable Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit (MAC) less generous while making the refundable Research Credit more generous.

Wisconsin’s MAC is a nonrefundable credit available to pass-through businesses and traditional corporations and can be claimed in an amount equal to 7.5 percent of income derived from manufacturing or agricultural activities, not to exceed a business’s total tax liability. In the governor’s proposal, the credit for manufacturers could be claimed against only the first $300,000 in income derived from manufacturing activities in a year. However, the proposal would not impose a cap on the amount of the credit that can be claimed by agricultural producers. Capping the manufacturing portion of the MAC would increase taxes on manufacturers by an estimated $516.6 million over two years.

Meanwhile, the proposal would make Wisconsin’s refundable Research Credit more generous. Currently, this credit can be claimed on amounts equal to 11.5 percent of a taxpayer’s expenses related to research and development activities in Wisconsin. If the credit amount exceeds tax liability, a tax refund can be claimed in amounts up to 10 percent of the total credit value. Under the governor’s proposal, the refundable portion of the credit would be increased so claimants could receive a refund up to 20 percent, rather than 10 percent, of the credit value.

These tax changes would further accentuate the unequal tax treatment of different industries under Wisconsin’s income tax laws. Instead, policymakers ought to consider how Wisconsin’s high corporate and individual income tax rates detract from the state’s attractiveness as a location for business investment. Ultimately, broad-based, low-rate taxes create the most favorable environment for business investment and growth across all industries.

Sales Tax Changes

Also included in the budget is a proposal to subject two new business inputs to the sales tax. An ideal sales tax system excludes business inputs, not to give businesses a special tax break, but to prevent tax pyramiding. When business inputs are subject to the sales tax, the costs of production rise, and much of the intrinsic sales tax burden gets passed along to consumers in the form of higher retail prices. Wisconsin already properly excludes most business inputs from the sales tax, so handpicking certain inputs for taxation would be a step in the wrong direction.

Further, this proposal would require online marketplace facilitators to collect and remit sales taxes on behalf of third-party sellers who use these platforms to connect with customers. Current Wisconsin law requires remote sellers who make $100,000 worth of sales or 200 transactions in-state to collect sales taxes from buyers and remit those taxes to the state. The purposes of this de minimis threshold is to allow a safe harbor for remote sellers making only occasional sales in a state.. In instances in which sales tax is not collected at the point of sale, the consumer is responsible for calculating the sales tax owed and remitting that amount to the state. Unsurprisingly, compliance is notoriously low, as many consumers assume a sales tax is only owed when collected at the point of sale. Several states have enacted laws requiring marketplace facilitators to collect sales taxes as a way to boost compliance with state sales and use tax laws. The governor’s budget estimates this would increase collection of taxes already owed by $93.9 million over two years.

Marijuana, Tobacco, and Vapor Tax Changes

Governor Evers’ proposal also includes changes to various excise taxes, including taxes on tobacco, vapor, and medical marijuana products.

Currently, Wisconsin’s cigarette tax is 12.6 cents per cigarette, or $2.52 for a pack of 20., the 12th highest cigarette tax in the country. Other tobacco products, like chewing tobacco, are generally taxed at 71 percent of the manufacturer’s list price. The governor’s budget proposes imposing taxes on e-cigarettes and vapor products at 71 percent of the manufacturer’s list price, regardless of whether said vapor products contain nicotine. Under this proposal, Wisconsin would follow Minnesota and the District of Columbia in having one of the highest vapor taxes in the country.

The governor’s proposal would also raise additional revenue by taxing “little cigars” like cigarettes, and by creating a medical marijuana program, with sales taxes and a 10 percent excise tax levied on medical marijuana.

Transportation Tax Changes

The governor’s transportation tax proposals would put a greater emphasis on user taxes and fees while reducing reliance on general tax revenue to fund transportation. Most notably, the plan would increase the gas tax by 8 cents per gallon and begin indexing it for inflation. Currently, the state-levied gas tax totals 32.9 cents per gallon (cpg), including a 30.9 cpg excise tax and a 2 cpg tax on underground storage of fuels. Wisconsin’s 32.9 cpg gas tax has remained constant since 2006, but the value of the tax has declined in real terms every year since 2003. Additionally, as vehicles become more fuel-efficient, fewer gallons of gas are needed to travel the same distance, further eroding the value of the gas tax.

To offset some of the gas tax increase, the governor’s proposal would eliminate the minimum markup on motor fuels. Currently, Wisconsin’s minimum markup law requires gasoline retailers to raise the price of gasoline 9.18 percent above the wholesale price. This Depression-era law was originally designed to prevent retailers from using predatory pricing to defeat their competitors and gain a monopoly, but there is little evidence price gouging would occur absent a minimum markup law.

Would-be Justice Neubauer (D–Madison)

Dan O’Donnell:

Lisa Neubauer is a Democrat. About that there can be no question. It’s not a stretch to say that Democratic politics is her life and has been for, well, pretty much her entire life.

One of her very first jobs was as a legislative aide to Democratic State Senator Fred Risser. She married Democratic State Assembly member Jeffrey Neubauer, who later served as chairman of both the Wisconsin Democratic Party and Democratic President Bill Clinton’s campaign in Wisconsin.

Democratic politics is such a part of the Neubauers’ lives that their daughter Greta followed them into the family business and now holds her father’s seat in the Assembly’s 62nd district.

The Neubauers, like many active Democratic families, have given generously to Democratic politicians, groups, and, of course the Democratic Party itself. “Generously” might actually be a gross understatement: Since 1992, they have given more than $92,000 to Democratic politicians, $7,300 to various Democratic Party committees, and $6,900 to former Senator Russ Feingold’s Progressives United political action committee for a staggering total of $105,660 in Democratic donations.

According to Wisconsin Campaign Finance Information System (CFIS) records, $27,490 of that was in the name of Lisa Neubauer–including eight separate donations totaling $8,100 to former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.

A little over a year after the last of those donations, Doyle appointed her to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals even though she had no prior judicial experience. Four months after the appointment, her husband Jeffrey donated an additional $250 to Doyle and then gave him a further $500 in 2009.

As an appellate court judge, Lisa Neubauer is expected to adhere to Wisconsin’s Code of Judicial Conduct, which explicitly provides that “no judge or candidate for judicial office or judge-elect may…make or solicit financial or other contributions in support of a political party’s causes or candidates.”

Naturally, she claims that her massive Democratic donations stopped the second she was appointed to the bench, but that isn’t entirely true. She and her husband kept right on donating to Democrats. She just made sure her husband signed the checks.

Jeffrey Neubauer is of course unbound by any obligation to be politically neutral and may donate to any candidate he wishes, but the $29,245 he has given to state candidates and $31,775 he has given to federal candidates since Lisa became a judge rather obviously came from her, too.

Think about it logically: The Neubauers are both lifelong Democrats who have given to the same candidates and committees right up until the moment that Lisa became a judge. At that point, all of the donations from the Neubauers were in Jeffrey’s name only.

Did lifelong Democrat Lisa suddenly stop supporting Democrats? Of course not.  She just couldn’t donate to them anymore without violating the Code of Judicial Conduct so she made sure her husband signed all of the checks.
Through this loophole, Judge Neubauer has continued to be one of the larger Democratic donors in Wisconsin without ever raising questions about judicial misconduct.

Is it possible that Jeffrey Neubauer made dozens of donations totaling more than $50,000 without his wife’s knowledge or prior consent? Sure, but as anyone who has ever been married will attest, it isn’t particularly likely.

These are her donations just as much as they are his, and they present a significant conflict of interest in both her current role as Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the position on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court that she is currently seeking.

On September 19th, Jeffrey Neubauer made a $5,000 donation to then-gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers. On November 5th, he donated another $5,000.

How likely is it that he donated $10,000 in two months without telling his wife or without his wife agreeing to an expenditure that large in such a short period of time? It’s about as likely as either a Governor Tony Evers policy or Governor Tony Evers himself never ending up in a case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

It is a virtual certainty that if elected to the Court, Lisa Neubauer will be tasked with deciding the constitutionality of an Evers policy and will hear cases to which Evers in his official capacity will be a party. How likely will it be that she will able to decide those cases impartially given her and her husband’s substantial financial support of a party before her?

The Code of Judicial Conduct provides that “a judge shall recuse himself or herself in a proceeding when the facts and circumstances the judge knows or reasonably should know establish [that]…the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer.”

If the party is the State of Wisconsin, its lawyer very well may be Attorney General Josh Kaul. On June 4th, Jeffrey Neubauer donated $500 to his campaign. On October 21st, he donated another $1,000.

These donations plainly demonstrate the extent of Judge Neubauer’s biases and indicate in the clearest possible terms how she will rule in any case involving Evers, Kaul, her daughter Greta (to whom her husband understandably donated $1,100) or the laws and policies they enact and support.

Lisa Neubauer is a Democrat. About that there can be no question. There can be and should be, however, significant questions about her impartiality in any cases involving her fellow Democrats, especially those to whom she and her husband have donated more than $100,000.

And there can and should be significant questions about the manner in which the Neubauers have been for a decade skirting Wisconsin’s Code of Judicial Conduct regarding political activity and potential conflicts of interest.

This is especially pertinent given Judge Neubauer’s decade-long refusal to list on her mandatory ethics reporting form customers of her husband’s former business, Kranz, Inc. As a result, it is nearly impossible to determine whether she would have had a conflict of interest in literally hundreds of cases that have come before her; cases in which her and her husband’s financial interest could have been directly impacted.

Her excuse? Listing her husband’s clients might help his competitors to poach them. In other words, her personal and financial interests trumped the interests of open, transparent government and ethical judicial behavior.

Even though she is bound by the Code of Judicial conduct to list potential conflicts and recuse herself from cases involving those conflicts, Judge Neubauer refused because of its potential impact on her family’s income–income that she and her husband used to donate to Democrats in direct contravention of yet another ethical guideline.

Lisa Neubauer is a Democrat, after all, and a rather brazen one at that.

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