In Wisconsin, a crucial battle for the state’s Supreme Court has turned what is typically an under-the-radar judicial election into a high-stakes and costly affair. With the future of the state’s policies on abortion, voting rights, and redistricting hanging in the balance, outside political funding from prominent Democrats, such as George Soros, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), has poured into the race.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has funneled millions into the campaign of liberal candidate Judge Janet Protasiewicz, amounting to roughly $8.7 million this reporting period. Critics argue that such significant contributions indicate that Protasiewicz may be a progressive rubber stamp, with donors seeking to secure her allegiance in exchange for financial support. This funding has come under scrutiny as it is ahead of a supposedly “nonpartisan” Supreme Court race.
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Wisconsin’s judicial election holds significant implications for the state’s political landscape, as the Supreme Court may become the final decision-maker on various consequential issues. Currently, conservatives hold a 4-3 majority on the court. Still, the retirement of conservative Justice Patience Roggensack has left this majority vulnerable. The election outcome will likely shape the court’s decisions through the 2024 presidential election.
The influence of outside political funding on the Wisconsin Supreme Court election has sparked concerns about the impartiality of the judiciary. Protasiewicz’s campaign has received endorsements from prominent Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton, EMILY’s List, and Planned Parenthood, primarily due to her pro-abortion stance. Furthermore, her campaign has attracted significant financial support from out-of-state donors, raising questions about the true motivations behind these contributions.
In contrast, the campaign of conservative candidate Justice Dan Kelly has garnered far less financial support, with just $2.2 million in funds for this reporting period. Kelly’s campaign advisor, Ben Voelkel, argues that while Protasiewicz relies on out-of-state megadonors and state party bosses, Kelly has the support of grassroots activists across Wisconsin.
As the race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat heats up, it becomes clear that the stakes are high for the state and the nation. The election outcome could upend 25 years of conservative reform in Wisconsin, with early voting already underway and the election just one week away. Moreover, the massive influx of outside funding from prominent Democrats underscores the importance of the race, raising concerns about the influence of money in politics and its potential impact on the impartiality of the judiciary.