CCP files lawsuit; reformers wonder what the Heck happened

The Center for Competitive Politics joined local counsel James Troupis in filing a federal lawsuit on behalf of Judge Randy Koschnick challenging Wisconsin’s recently-passed “Impartial Justice Act.”

CCP’s press release is here. An op-ed written by CCP Chairman Brad Smith for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the constitutionally-flawed bill is here. A lawsuit filed last week by Wisconsin Right to Life Political Action Committee raises similar issues.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about the Koschnick’s challenge mentions the central issue in the case — “rescue funds” for candidates who accept a government welfare check for their campaigns:

“The act has a chilling effect on speech because individuals who are interested in advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate raising money privately are less inclined to speak because the state will provide additional funding to the publicly financed candidate to allegedly counteract such speech,” Koshnick’s lawsuit said.

Wisconsin Radio Network, the Wisconsin State Journal and the Associated Press also have updates.

Jay Heck, of Common Cause Wisconsin, has a predictably childish response, resorting to name calling, omitting key facts and minimizing the important First Amendment issues in this case. He calls CCP a “right-wing, anti-reform group,” and refers to the lawsuits as “vicious attacks.”

CCP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that fights against onerous campaign finance regulations that self-styled reformers like Common Cause — also a nonprofit, nonpartisan group — lobby to enact.

Heck notes that a similar “rescue funds” provision for taxpayer financed judicial campaigns was upheld in North Carolina.

He leaves out all the good parts of the story…

In 2008, the Supreme Court struck down the “Millionaire’s Amendment” of McCain-Feingold in Davis v. Federal Election Commission. The Court cited a 1994 Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals case, Day v. Holahan, which held that “rescue funds” were unconstitutional. Since then, two federal judges have cited the reasoning in Davis for ruling taxpayer financed campaign systems with “rescue funds” unconstitutional in Arizona and Connecticut.

So, it’s true that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers North Carolina, upheld North Carolina’s system against a challenge and the Supreme Court declined to hear a request for a review. The Court hears about 80 out of 8,000 requests it receives per year, and denial of a cert petition does not necessarily reflect on the merit of a case.

The Center for Competitive Politics is joining this case to fight on the side of liberty and freedom against government regulation of core political speech. We’ll take those odds any day.

And, if that’s a “vicious attack,” then Heck has a hell of an imagination.

UPDATE: Instead of debating the merit of lawsuits filed against the “Impartial Justice Act,” Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Mike McCabe composes a Christmas carol of sorts, riffing off of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”:

Most every voter
In the whole state of Wisconsin
Likes Impartial Justice a lot . . .

But Right to Life,
A powerful big old lobbying group,
Does NOT!

Right to Life hates Impartial Justice! The whole darn law!
Now please don’t ask why. Who knows what they saw.
It could be their heads aren’t screwed on quite right.
It could be, perhaps, that their shorts are too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason . . . ahem,
May be that they want judges to belong just to them.

But whatever the reason,
Their heads or their shorts,
Just days before Christmas, they’re hating impartial courts.
Glaring from on high with a sour, Grinchy frown,
Every lawmaker who voted for it had to be wrong.
For they imagine every voter from Peshtigo to Paoli,
Really wants the best court money can buy.

“They might rule based on facts!” they snarl with a sneer.
“The next high court election is 2011! It’s practically here!”
Then they growl, with their fingers nervously drumming,
“We MUST find a way to stop Impartial Justice from coming!”

Brilliant! It’s interesting that from a policy standpoint, both Heck and McCabe are operating at about a 3rd grade level.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.