Friday, Feb. 22, 2008

Party-line

By Ed Garvey
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Some of you are of an age where you remember the old party-line telephones. One felt guilty if he or she lingered for a moment before hanging up--just to find out who was talking to whom. (If mother saw you linger, it was off to bed!) The modern day equivalent of the party-line phone is open records, especially when people sending emails think they are shielded from public scrutiny.

Someone figured out that all the communication among the Basting Commission members (a/k/a the Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee) was, in a word, confidential. It ain't. It is now available to anyone and your mother won't punish if you linger over the emails.

The email makes clear what my mother preached that "you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear." You can't create a commission to regulate Supreme Court elections behind closed doors and expect the public, or even the media, to get behind the idea. And if you cannot enforce your rulings, save the emails.

It appears that even the board that governs the State Bar did not know about Basting's plans. And apparently the Bar is frozen in place.

The fundamental problem of Supreme Court elections begins and ends with millions of dollars from WMC fronts pumped into the election to elect a pro-business Justice. Ethics? Dishonest TV spots? You name it and I will label it irrelevant if you don't deal with the money. You cannot change the system of buying the Court if you don't.

Served on a platter to the members of Basting Commission was a golden opportunity to do a great thing, but their gaze was elsewhere. The governor, Senate, the public, the entire Court, and most members of the Assembly favor public funding of Court elections. Did Basting & Co. jump on the public financing express train? Even testify in favor? Nope and double nope.

While opportunity slipped away, now we know that Basting, rather than lobbying to drain the swamp, was sending out emails to gain more "balance" on his do-nothing, center-right Commission by naming a WMC board member to the Commission and one other Republican activist. Want to know why you should not jump into the major leagues until you can hit a curve? Read the email.

Meanwhile it is deja vue. We are about to get another Ziegler (Wilcox) election. Help!

Words matter--Barack is right. So how can Bill O'Reilly get away with his show-stopper?
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