Sunday, September 25, 2016

John Doe must be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court

The integrity of our nation depends on the High Court correcting our state's wrongs

If a left-leaning organization had coordinated with a Democratic candidate to shift funds from wealthy donors to themselves in an effort to keep millions of dollars in campaign cash hidden, you can best believe we’d be hearing from conservative media across Wisconsin about the blatant and criminal actions of that candidate and organization.

And if that same left-leaning group had influenced the elections of state Supreme Court justices by disseminating millions of dollars collectively in support of several liberal justices, that same conservative media would likely demand that those justices recuse themselves in any cases involving that organization.

Those demands would be justified, too -- the judicial ethics code in Wisconsin requires judges and justices to avoid impropriety (and even the APPEARANCE of impropriety), defining such actions as conduct which “would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.”

The scenario above is not fictional -- it just involves conservative organizations rather than left-leaning ones, Republican candidates rather than Democrats, and conservative justices rather than liberals. The indignation should remain despite the change of characters. Yet several conservatives across the state are furious, not about the collusion and coordination between candidates, third party groups and corporate elitists that occurred, but rather because of the fact that information meant to be hidden under gag order was instead leaked to the public, exposing conservative malfeasance.

Whoever leaked that information should be held accountable. But so, too, should those who performed the illegal actions in the first place.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider whether it should revive the John Doe investigation. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court previously ruled that the investigation should come to an end, a ruling that was marred by the fact that conservative justices on the court had benefitted from millions of dollars in campaign spending by the very groups that were involved in the case. “Reasonable minds” would conclude that the majority ruling from that case has the appearance of being made by an impartial justice or two from the court’s conservative bloc.

This should be a no-brainer. Of course the investigation should move forward, and of course the conservative justices were errant in not removing themselves from the case from the start.

All of this is a symptom of a greater problem. The influence of corporate money, and the unlimited, hidden nature of that money, has made a huge mess in Wisconsin and elsewhere. This problem is not new, but in light of recent years following the Citizens United decision, it has gotten way out of hand, to the point where some international organizations refer to the U.S. as an oligarchy now rather than a democracy.

We as a nation should be ashamed of this, and the Supreme Court should remedy the unintended problems they unfortunately helped to create in issuing out the Citizens United decision. They can start making things right by agreeing to hear the John Doe appeal.

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