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Group’s integrity called into question following release of messages

State Supreme Court candidate Michael J. Gableman’s campaign is calling for the Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee (WJCIC) to withdraw from any further involvement in the spring election.

Gableman’s spokesman, Darrin Schmitz, alleges that e-mail messages between committee members indicate the group has operated in a biased manner.

In a letter to WJCIC Chairman Thomas J. Basting, Sr., Schmitz stated that members of the committee “devised detailed campaign advice” for incumbent Justice Louis B. Butler Jr. through a series of e-mails and were “encouraged” to share the advice with the justice.

“We do not recognize them as a legitimate body,” Schmitz said in an interview.

Basting challenged those allegations.

In an interview he said, “The committee has not been compromised in any way,” and the committee has no intention of “stepping down.” He indicated that additional comment from the WJCIC is forthcoming.

Schmitz alleges a series of e-mails between committee members dating back to Dec. 18, 2007, are laced with references to Gableman campaign staff and others as “skunk,” “demon” and “mercenaries.” The e-mailed messages were obtained through an open records request by the Wisconsin Club for Growth.

“Any reasonable person would believe these personal attacks occurred on a school playground – not among adult professionals charged with representing the State Bar of Wisconsin,” stated Schmitz in his letter.

He specifically cited a message between committee members that stated, “This seems to me to be a Butler campaign problem/opportunity. Surely they are familiar with the enemies’ strategy. If not, someone can refer them to something that happened in 1978 when a candidate was attacked by outsiders and used that to question the motives and even the fact of their participation. Butler can talk about the professor’s oversimplifications and about the megaphone supplied by WMC and take the boost that gives him without mentioning his opponent.”

Erin Celello, communications director for Butler, refuted Schmitz’s charges and said the justice has not had any contact with the WJCIC, other than his signed submission of the campaign pledge

“I think this attack on the committee should be seen for what it is, a desperate attempt to divert attention from Judge Gableman’s reluctance to sign the campaign pledge,” said Celello.

Schmitz said that, as a judge, Gableman is already bound by the code of judicial conduct and “voters don’t need a biased committee to tell them what’s right or wrong.”

Celello maintained that there is nothing in any of the e-mails to suggest any wrongdoing by the committee and that they were nothing more than internal conversations among the members.

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