Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Koschnick and the anti-abortion fringe

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Randy Koschnick wants to be a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Problem is, incumbent Justice Shirley Abrahamson is in his way, so he's launched a campaign to unseat her in the elections this spring (the primary is Feb. 17 and the general election is April 7).

I've been having nasty flashbacks to the campaign between Michael Gableman and Louis Butler ever since I heard Koschnick was running. Were we in for another round of scurrilous attack ads placed by obnoxious interest groups like WMC? Would Koschnick start misstating case law and twisting the record of his opponent?

Pretty much yes. Call it a case of deja vu all over again - the only difference being the name of the players. Several of the more powerful conservative interest groups have curiously opted to sit out of this election cycle, including WMC, Club for Growth Wisconsin, and Coalition for America's Families.

Why? That's a damn good question, but their decision may be based on a combination of the massive amount of scrutiny and criticism WMC came in for last year, and perhaps a perceived lack of a real chance at winning. After all, they've already achieved getting one under-qualified conservative hack (Gableman) onto the bench, and two potentially easier-to-win seats will be coming up in the next few years as Justices Prosser and Roggensack come up for re-election.

But never fear! Several other right-wing interest groups have taken up the cause and are endorsing and campaigning for Koschnick. One of these noble citizen's groups is Wisconsin Right to Life, the same group currently backing efforts to stop a new abortion clinic in Madison. Another group that's backing Koschnick? The NRA Political Victory Fund. Yep.

It should be noted that Koschnick has also been speaking with the Wisconsin Family Council, run by the notoriously homophobic crusader Julaine Appling, one of the loudest proponents of the anti-gay marriage bill passed in Wisconsin in '06. Thanks to an open records request, it's possible to note that a call to the WFC was placed from Koschnick's desk phone back on Sept. 22 of '08. Whether or not the group will publicly endorse his run, it's certainly worth noting their interactions. I should add that the records request also revealed phone and email conversations, both from Koschnick's state offices, with Patti Chmielewski, the Jefferson County contact for WRTL.

I don't think there's much question as to what Koschnick's political affiliations are. And though the apparent use of his official phone and email to conduct conversations with interest groups now actively backing his campaign may or may not be legally suspect, this does serve to beg several important questions.

Would Koschnick really be an objective voice on the court, one that adhered to the actual law of the land and displayed thoughtful understanding and interpretation of its trickier aspects? I sincerely doubt that.

For further proof that that's not likely to be the case, the illustrious Illusory Tenant lays out Koschnick's shaky comprehension of the law here, and Super Id has a pretty good take on the issue, too.

What it all boils down to is this: Randy Koschnick appears to be nothing more than a partisan, far-right conservative hack with poor judgement and suspect interpretation of the law. I would say we need not worry about so weak a contender against the established and knowledgeable Abrahamson, but then again, Gableman did manage to win his bid - so it's important to get educated on the real issues here, spread the word, and decide what kind of person you'd rather have sitting on the bench of the highest court in the state: a political ideologue, or a proven and thoughtful judge.

P.S. Blogger informs me that this is my 500th post! Woo! Honestly, I'm not sure whether to be proud or mildly horrified...maybe both. :)

(EDIT: Changed the date of the WFC phone call - records were misinterpreted)


Anonymous said...

OK I agree with your assessment. But where are these lunk headed righties crawling out of?
Seems to me the right to live has been decided years ago, and theres no argument there. Theres a fine line between the WMC choosing to sit out this election, or just not get behind this candidate. Im certain they already did their homework and didnt like what they seen. So we are indeed lucky that the right winged busines lobby has shot themselves in the foot on our behalf. Maybethey have a heart after all.

Lucas said...

Your post is interesting in that it does not point to one poor ruling by Koschnick nor that he has been basing his campaign off of specific cases that he opposed.

Also it has not been beneath Abrahamson to use the mailing list of Planned Parenthood here in Wisconsin for campaign purposes. All the while claiming to be nonpartisan and balanced in that very email! You can check out my blog for more info.

Emily said...

Lucas - It's interesting that I linked to several other blogs that list a series of cases that Koschnick either cited incorrectly, or worked on and had overturned by higher courts.

Anonymous said...

"two potentially easier-to-win seats will be coming up in the next few years as Justices Prosser and Roggensack come up for re-election."

Roggensack & Prosser are already way conservative, WMC et al don't need to worry about them. Bradley's up in 2010, though . . .

Zach W. said...

Lucas, if you'd like I'd be happy to cite the traffic citation Judge Koschnick ruled on that eventually got overturned and thrown out by higher courts.

That's pretty ignominious for a Judge who aspires to be on the state Supreme Court...

Anonymous said...

Here in Texas, the laboratory for bad government, the right wing began their takeover of the state in the 1980s by running for, and winning, judicial elections across the state. If you take over the judiciary branch first, it allows the other branches to enact whatever crazy things they'd like without fear of repudiation; it's a staggeringly effective way to ensure the continuation of bad policies.

Y'all should do everything you can to keep this process from being repeated. We Democrats in Texas concentrated too hard on other races, and we're continuing to pay the price today for that strategic mistake.

Anonymous said...

"We are appalled to learn that our publicly funded University of Wisconsin hospital and medical foundation is planning to directly participate in the dismemberment of second-trimester babies -- babies that can suck their thumbs, turn somersaults in their mother's wombs, and whose hearts are pumping gallons of blood every day," director Peggy Hamill said in a news release.

So, now being against the dismemberment of an unborn baby sucking his/her thumb in his/her mom's womb is a fringe far right stance? Emily, can I ask you if you believe an unborn baby's nerve endings are developing in the womb along with his/her brain, heart, limbs, etc., and whether or not you think the unborn baby can feel the dismemberment happening?

Emily said...

Anon - It doesn't matter what I think. What matters is the unique, individual situation of the mother and the informed advice of her doctor. Period.

Anonymous said...

You are so wrong. It does matter what we think. We are here to protect the innocent who cannot protect themselves. Period.

But, I can see why you can't even bring yourself to think about the question I asked you.

Emily said...

Bait bait bait. You're not winning yourself any converts. And I doubt I am, either.

But I'm going to repeat myself: It doesn't matter what I--or you--think. What matters is the unique, individual situation of the mother and the informed advice of her doctor. Period.

Anonymous said...

Bait? Hardly. You see, Emily, I'm not trying to "win" anything. I truly believe we as a society owe it to the unborn to protect them because they are innocent and deserve life just like you and me. You, on the other hand, think it's some sort of political game that you have to win. You can't even answer my question. What does that say?

Emily said...

No, and it's core, this isn't a political issue. It's personal. It's about the fundamental rights of the already living, breathing individuals dealing with the situation.

Do I like the idea of fetuses being aborted? Absolutely not. But I like the idea of already-born and grown women being deprived of their natural, educational, and societal rights even less.

As I've stated so, so many times before on this very blog, I think we should all be working to decrease the number of abortions needed/wanted in the first place by placing greater emphasis on comprehensive and accurate sexual education for our children, as well as easy and cheap access to contraception, child care services, and maternity/paternity leave.

So I have a question for you: Do you support the measures I just laid out? They would significantly help to decrease the overall number of abortions performed without denying the fundamental rights of women, after all.

Anonymous said...

"So I have a question for you: Do you support the measures I just laid out? They would significantly help to decrease the overall number of abortions performed without denying the fundamental rights of women, after all."

Emily, I don't believe it's a fundamental right for women to have abortions, so I would certainly support the measures you suggested to reduce the number of abortions. I'm not one of these sign carrying anti-abortion type of people. I feel those people are counter-productive and they even turn me off. But, I am steady of my belief that an unborn baby is a life and suffers terribly during the abortion procedure, and I couldn't live with myself if I didn't tell the truth about it.

The Lost Albatross