Scott Walker is the perfect example of how billionaires can purchase justice a la carte to protect their pet politicians.
Now that’s not to say that Scott Walker himself is a billionaire. But he has a well-known relationship with billionaires like the Koch Brothers – and their assorted front groups.
And in short, that’s why the Wisconsin Supreme Court dropped its John Doe probe into whether Scott Walker criminally violated campaign finance laws to win his recall election in 2012.
The Koch brothers and their front groups, particularly the Wisconsin Club for Growth, along with the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce group (WMC) have been setting up this ruling for almost a decade.
This story starts in 2007 with an election for an open seat on the state Supreme Court.
In that election, conservative front groups spent $2.9 million backing the conservative Annette Ziegler and attacking her liberal opponent.
Total spending on that election was four times the previous record for a Wisconsin Supreme Court race. And that was just to keep a liberal from winning the seat.
And In 2008, those same groups spent $2.7 million to unseat liberal justice Louis Butler and to put in place conservative Michael Gableman.
But after two elections of blatant spending by partisan interest groups, the legislature pushed back and passed the “Impartial Justice Act.” It set up a clean campaign finance system in Wisconsin and it even included a matching funds provision to help candidates counter negative ads against them.
But by then, the march to statewide plutocracy was in motion. And the Kochs weren’t going to let finance laws block them from owning the state government.
Walker won his first gubernatorial election in 2010, riding a wave of finance and support from Americans for Prosperity. That’s another Koch money front group.
And when he took office, Walker and the newly conservative legislature quickly and quietly stuck a repeal of the Impartial Justice Act into his first state budget in 2011.
Later in 2011, one of the conservative judges on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court was up for re-election – David Prosser. The state was in upheaval over Walker’s assault on public unions, and the Kochs couldn’t afford to lose a seat on the court.
So the Wisconsin Club for Growth and WMC spent an estimated $2.5 million to keep conservative Justice David Prosser on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court – while his own campaign only spent about 700,000 dollars.
He only won re-election by 7,004 votes. But $2.5 million is a small price for billionaires to protect a shill like Walker.
Especially when the end result is a wholly owned state government – executive, legislature and the courts.
But all those gains were threatened when prosecutors started investigating Walker for coordinating with the Wisconsin Club for Growth and WMC during Walker’s recall election in 2012.
In response, the Wisconsin Club for Growth filed a lawsuit to end the investigation.
Remember, in the last decade alone: Three of the seven Wisconsin Supreme Court justices have won their elections with help from the Kochs.
In the same way as Scott Walker.
And with the same groups.
Knowing this, prosecutors filed for two of the justices to recuse themselves.
And under a 2009 US Supreme Court ruling, they would have had to recuse themselves in pretty much every other state.
But not in Wisconsin. Because it pays to own the state Supreme Court.
The court simply adopted rules – THAT WERE PROPOSED BY THE WMC – that say very simply that “that the receipt of a lawful campaign contribution shall not, by itself, warrant judicial recusal.”
Make no mistake. These groups are simply dark money cover groups for the Koch brothers and their billionaire buddies to funnel as much money as they want into state and federal elections.
And the way they do it is technically “legal” because of the disastrous rulings in Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo.
Which brings us back to the Koch Brothers’ presidential candidate of choice: Scott Walker.
Since Scott Walker became governor in 2011, Wisconsin has been nothing but a staging ground for the Koch’s plan to buy the White House in 2016.
If Scott Walker and these dark money groups faced real investigation, it wouldn’t just lead to Walker possibly going to jail and losing out on being president.
It would also call into question the entire idea of campaign spending as free speech. It would expose the unfettered power of money to control our political system.
And THAT would be disastrous for the Kochs, who have pledged to spend more than $800 million in this upcoming election.
Sadly for our democracy, the Kochs and their friends spent more than 1$0 million in less than a decade to buy Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.
And that investment paid off huge today, when the court ended the investigation into whether Scott Walker violated any campaign finance laws and ordered all the evidence destroyed.
This is a true crisis for our Republic.
The stakes have never been higher (and our need for your support has never been greater).
For over two decades, Truthout’s journalists have worked tirelessly to give our readers the news they need to understand and take action in an increasingly complex world. At a time when we should be reaching even more people, big tech has suppressed independent news in their algorithms and drastically reduced our traffic. Less traffic this year has meant a sharp decline in donations.
The fact that you’re reading this message gives us hope for Truthout’s future and the future of democracy. As we cover the news of today and look to the near and distant future we need your help to keep our journalists writing.
Please do what you can today to help us keep working for the coming months and beyond.