With one week to go before the April 2nd election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Justice Pat Roggensack has raked in around half a million dollars, thanks to donations from big business and Republican groups. As thousands of Wisconsinites face foreclosure in state courts, the real estate industry is spending big to keep the 4–3 pro-corporate majority on the high court. The Wisconsin Realtors Association is spending $200,000 of its own money to support Roggensack, and campaign finance documents filed on Monday list $8,625 in contributions to Roggensack from the association’s PAC. In its endorsement of the justice, the association credited her record of ruling in favor of the real estate industry.
Executives at ABC Supply, who contributed half a million dollars to Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to fight last year’s recall campaign, gave more than $10,000 to Roggensack’s campaign. ABC Supply has been criticized for paying no state corporate taxes while raking in an estimated $5 billion in annual sales. The corporate-funded Wisconsin Club for Growth, which supports limits on legal liability for corporate defendants, has spent $300,000 on Roggensack’s behalf.
This flood of corporate money comes as the court prepares to rule on several controversial bills from the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature, including a Voter ID bill. The recent “open pit mining” bill is also expected to face legal challenges. The bill takes away a citizen’s right to sue mining companies for environmental damage and “allows mining corporations to dump toxic mine waste into sensitive wetlands and floodplains.”
Some of Roggensack’s individual donors are attorneys that practice before the court. The largest contribution from an individual came from attorney Michael Hupy, who recently faced reprimands in Illinois and Wisconsin for violating ethics rules. The Wisconsin Supreme Court found that Hupy mailed out thousands of brochures that falsely accused one of his competitors of unethical conduct — an action that “harmed a portion of the public that may very well have been looking for legal representation.” Roggensack wrote a two-sentence dissent, and less than two years later, Hupy gave her campaign $7,500.
Roggensack’s opponent in next week’s election, Professor Ed Fallone of Marquette Law School, has criticized the incumbent for voting in 2010 to adopt an ethics rule that allows the justices to hear cases involving campaign contributors. The rule states that campaign contributions can never be the sole basis for a justice’s recusal. Fallone argues, “That’s ‘justice for sale,’ and it’s wrong.”
The rule was literally written by two groups — Wisconsin’s Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s chapter of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the state realtors’ association — that have spent millions on ads for the pro-corporate judges on the court. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley criticized the four-justice majority for adopting “word-for-word the script of special interests that may want to sway the results of future judicial campaigns.” State Rep. Gary Hebl (D) is planning to introduce legislation to overturn the rule. One of the groups that wrote the recusal rule, the Wisconsin Realtors Association, is the same group spending $200,000 to support Roggensack.