Monday, August 18, 2008

Republican Operative Under Investigation, Once Part of Wis. Supreme Court Justice Wilcox Electioneering

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinels Daniel Bice uncovered what looks like a possible repeat offender. The previous offense had to do with the illegal electioneering of a former Republican Representative, and now conservative Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox, back in 1997. Well before the power of the internets and bloggers had a chance to spread the word. Here's just another story of Republicans getting by with what might be perfectly legal, while ignoring the important moral and ethical issues. Bice writes:

Mark Block, the conservative operative who was once banned from Wisconsin politics for three years from 2001-2004, is under the microscope again. And just like 11 years ago, the investigation is focusing on a last-minute mailing in a highly competitive Supreme Court race. Sources say staffers with the new Government Accountability Board have subpoenaed records from Americans for Prosperity — a fiscally conservative, pro-business outfit run by Block — as part of their probe into a March 25 mass mailing. The two-page letter from Block encouraged people to vote for conservative challenger Michael Gableman instead of Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler. “If (Butler) is defeated, a traditionalist majority is likely to re-emerge on the Supreme Court,” states the letter, which Block provided. In determining the legality of the March mailing, the state appears to be focusing on whether the group sent the letters to its members only — or to a wider audience.Back in 1997, Block was the campaign manager for then-Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox.

The state Elections Board sued the campaign, saying they broke the law by working with an outside interest group to run an off-the-books voter turnout effort in Wilcox’s campaign against Walt Kelly. The $200,000 turnout effort, funded by school-choice supporters, included sending out thousands of postcards tying Kelly to the American Civil Liberties Union. Block settled his portion of the suit by agreeing to pay $15,000 and to stay out of politics from 2001 to 2004.

The Government Accountability Board launched its recent probe after a top election lawyer turned over a letter he received March 29 from Block’s group. Mike Wittenwyler, a partner at Godfrey & Kahn, said the note was addressed to a previous resident who died in 1998. Block said the previous owner of Wittenwyler’s house was a member of a previous incarnation of Americans for Prosperity, a group called the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation.

Block said he understands why the state is putting so much effort into pursuing him and his group. “We’re a target,” he said, citing Americans for Prosperity’s anti-tax positions.

Republicans, the victims of pro-tax justice. How bizarre is that concept?

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