Milwaukee wing-nut Charlie Sykes likes to brag about his use of the public airwaves to pervert democracy in Wisconsin. After every election, he brags about how (some of) the causes he champions by parroting GOP talking-points prevailed in elections big and small.
The erudite shill Sykes and other GOP-operatives disguised as "talk-radio hosts" may have another award to put on their built-on-public-airwaves trophy cases on Wednesday. Despite a historic indifference to the very basics of judicial ethics, damaged WMC candidate Annette Ziegler may well find herself on the Supreme Court. She may be the first judge in Wisconsin that won’t have to worry about being disciplined by the Judicial Commission because she already leap-frogged the process right to the Supremes.
With all the phony hand-wringing by the wing-nuts about the supposed crisis of ethics in Wisconsin government, you’d think they’d at least pretend that Ziegler ruling on dozens of cases in which she had a direct financial interest might be a legitimate issue. But, as always for the wing-nuts, that kind of consistency is for suckers. Seconds after the state GOP hits the "send" button on their twice-daily excuse-making, Clifford-smearing e-mails, the radio squawkers are out in full-force, providing hours of free advertising every day for the Ziegler campaign.
The unfortunate death of the Fairness Doctrine and the right-wing nuts’ "freedom" to express "their" opinions (someone let me know where the line forms for anyone of a different persuasion to exercise a similar "freedom" on a 50,000-watt station like TMJ) are one thing; outright campaigning on behalf of one candidate and, just as nefariously, against another during actual elections is quite something else. Although the current FCC would be a joke even if it did have a Fairness Doctrine to enforce, it certainly seems that the Ziegler campaign should have to report the hours of free support as in-kind contributions by the local stations that have chosen to walk the all-GOP-all-the-time party line. But, as in judicial ethics, following the law is...well, you're kidding, right?
Although the Ziegler campaign and her surrogate "independent" supporters such as WMC and the usual school-"choice" industry interlopers (with Ziegler, it is always hard to tell who is the surrogate – or puppet – for whom...wait, no it isn’t) blanketed the airwaves with actual paid commercials a month before Linda Clifford got anything out, Ziegler could not have withstood the barrage of bad ethics news without the support of her local buddies Charlie, Mark, Jessica, Jay, Jeff, et al, ad nauseam.
As they have for years with Bush, the major benefit provided to any GOP candidate by the extraordinarily pliant wing-nuts is two-fold: 1) making excuses for the documented incompetence/ethical lapses/bad behavior of their precious Republicans and 2) personally destroying anyone who dares to run against/criticize/investigate the same. The talking points are developed by the GOP and distributed to the radio clowns and they then all dutifully say the same things. Over and over. The lies become perceived as truth through sheer repetition by the most unoriginal, scripted radio voices since Bob Hope left for television.
Besides minimizing the clear ethics violations by Ziegler – I mean, why even bother trying to make small-claims cases fair...they are so...small – the GOP wing-nuts have gone after Clifford for remarkably silly things. First of all, they rant about how Clifford might be compromised in cases similar to the personal injury cases handled by her husband, without even seeing what cases she may or may not recuse herself from once she’s on the bench. Clifford says she will examine the issue case-by-case, which is exactly right. The list of businesses on the WMC's list of members that might have business before the bought-and-sold Ziegler if she gets on the court is a lot longer than Clifford's husband's client list. Oh, that's right. What does she care?
Then, playing the game of death-by-a-thousand cuts, the wing-nuts have brought us "concerned" discussions about a photographer being caught taking pictures (taking pictures!) of the Washington County Courthouse (the courthouse!) and saying he was a reporter when confronted by a Deputy Sheriff. Never mind why the deputy is out there harassing a photographer taking a photo of a public building or who might have sent him out there.
Finally, not to be outdone, newly-single Dan Bice (the "Ice Boy"?) got his solo wing-nut groove going by playing up some Zielger-generated tripe about a researcher hired by the Clifford campaign who apparently plagiarized some stuff when he worked for the Center for Public Integrity, behavior for which they say he was fired. According to the perfection-seeking Bice, Clifford was supposed to check more carefully on the background of the person checking on Ziegler’s background. The researcher came up with documentation of Ziegler’s many ethical challenges, including the many cases she handled involving the bank where her husband has a seat on the board. "As far as we know, he didn’t make any of it up," admits Bice. Really? So what’s the problem?
All this noise by the radio and print wing-nuts sets up the smoke in the background, solely for Ziegler’s benefit. The hours of carping about Clifford’s photographer outside the courthouse by the GOP radio surrogates means the Ziegler campaign can stay "above the fray", at least when she is not showing Clifford in front of a full moon with scary horror-movie headlines. The Clifford campaign doesn’t have to do that with Ziegler’s image on their ads – the tight-bunned official photo of Ziegler is scary enough.