ON-Lion Letter
In December, Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Randy Koschnick filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state's recently passed bill enacting taxpayer-funded campaigns for the state supreme court.  Koschnick is represented by James R. Troupis of Michael Best & Friedrich in Milwaukee and Stephen M. Hoersting, vice president of the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) in Alexandria, Va.

"Schemes that give the government power to penalize candidates for exercising their First Amendment rights have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and two federal courts," according to Hoersting.  "A candidate who decides to not accept government welfare in a state Supreme Court race should not be forced to, in effect, reward his opponent's campaign by simply speaking out."

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed the "Impartial Justice Act" (Senate Bill 40) earlier in the month.  The bill provides $300,000 in initial taxpayer funds to participating candidates with additional "rescue funds" of up to $900,000 available based on the spending of non-participating candidates and independent groups.  Federal judges in Arizona and Connecticut have ruled similar "rescue-funds" provisions unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court's reasoning in 2008's Davis v. Federal Election Commission.

The bill also includes many other problematic provisions, such as forcing non-participating candidates to print disclaimers on their ads suggesting non-compliance with the law:  "This candidate has not agreed to abide by campaign contribution and spending limits."

The Wisconsin Right to Life Political Action Committee filed a similar lawsuit challenging the program's restrictions on independent groups that plan to exercise their First Amendment right to support or oppose candidates.

Koschnick is a sitting judge in Jefferson County and ran for the state supreme court in 2009.

Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation supports CCP, which was co-founded by Hoersting and former Federal Election Commission chairman Bradley A. Smith.
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