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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, January 08, 2007

Graul says Ziegler's not "partisan"; really, she's just hiding it

by folkbum

Well, we all had some fun with the Judge Ziegler photoshop contest. But the race for the open seat on Wisconsin's Supreme Court is actually a serious matter. People on the left and the right seem to recognize that the election this April (with a cursory primary before that) will have implications for years to come.

Supreme Court Justice is, technically, a non-partisan race. But like a lot of our "non-partisan" races, there are obvious partisan overtones. So far, they've mostly centered on Ziegler's opponent, Madison attorney Linda Clifford, and her being up-front about her politics. Democratic politics, that is.

This post at Letters in Bottles, for example, quotes extensively from Clifford's bio at her law firm to warn that she's "Wisconsin's Own [David] Souter." (And warns, ominously, that Clifford plays the harpsichord.) The Spice Boys can barely write a sentence about Clifford without throwing around "ties to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle" or "lifelong Democrat" and so on.

I'm not entirely sure what the big deal is; Clifford makes no secret about her politics. I mean, check out Clifford's supporters page--it's Democrat after Democrat after Democrat among the hundreds listed there, including people like Tammy Baldwin, Jon Richards, Tim Carpenter, and Dave Hansen, people not known for their political moderation. Clifford just doesn't try to hide it.

Zeigler's endorsement page, on the other hand, has seven names on five endorsements. And I doubt that the list of citizens who support Ziegler's candidacy is really as, um, empty as her website would seem to indicate:And it's not just missing from Ziegler's site; while people will write about Clifford's contributions from "Doyle budget director David Riemer," for example, no one seems to be writing about Ziegler's contributors, like prominent Republicans Russ Darrow or John Torinus. While every story ever has to include information about how much money the Cliffords have raised or given to Jim Doyle, no one is writing about the money flowing from various Zieglers to Republicans--including from Judge Ziegler's husband and father-in-law to the Thompson-McCallum administration that gave Judge Ziegler her current job.

Bernard Ziegler, the father-in-law, gave many thousands before and after--though more after--Annette Ziegler got the post. Her husband's contributions follow a similar pattern. (Ziegler was appointed in May, 1997.) And while those two kept their wallets out of the Mark Green campaign, many in the Ziegler family businesses weren't so restrained.

All of this is not just to point out problems with the way the media are reporting the race. The title of this post is all about Mark Graul, who cannot be called anything but Republican, having worked for Mark Green's congressional office before engineering Green's spectacular loss to a relatively unpopular incumbent. Graul is working for Ziegler. It was Graul, for example, who had to explain that it was just some over-eager staffer who did the photoshopping we all had a good larf about. Graul is trying madly to spin his candidate's partisan history:
Ziegler's campaign adviser Mark Graul, who was the campaign manager for the Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green, denied that the race would be partisan. He said Ziegler had a conservative view on judicial philosophy, which means she does not intend to legislative from the bench. [. . .] Graul said he didn't know whether Ziegler has a history of voting for Republican candidates.
That's laughable. Either Graul has no frickin' clue who he's working for, or he's lying through his teeth.

What's most frustrating is that the writer of the AP story--Scott Bauer, a regular on the Madison beat--didn't bother to fact-check this. He cops out by saying he couldn't get a comment from Ziegler, but he didn't at all need to rely on the judge herself when he has access to the same records that I did in coming up with the links all throughout this post. He lets Graul's absurd-on-its-face spin go by without a word, despite his having been careful to tell us of Clifford's support for Jim Doyle.

I'm not saying that the Spice Boys need to tsk-tsk Ziegler for the way money clearly tainted Tommy Thompson's decisions (since you know as well as I they'll only do that against Democrats). Rather, I'm asking for the media to notice when Graul is lying to them about his candidate's supposed non-partisan nature. I'm asking Graul himself to stop the lying, since it only makes him look stupid--or like a liar.

Mostly, I'm asking for someone, somewhere, to notice, perhaps, that while Linda Clifford is completely upfront and open of her partisan past, Annette Ziegler seems to be so ashamed of hers that she'll scrub her website and send out lackeys to lie for her.

Maybe I'm biased, but, for my money, that's the bigger story.

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