By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An outside group posted an online campaign ad Tuesday using footage prepared by state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley, raising questions about whether Bradley has broken her pledge not to coordinate with such groups even though it’s legal.
Bradley faces Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald and District 4 Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg in a Feb. 16 primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the April 5 general election. Bradley uploaded 3-1/2 minutes of footage to her You Tube channel on Jan. 21 showing her speaking to men in police and sheriff deputy’s uniforms and speaking to people at a conference table. The upload, entitled “Rebecca Bradley: A Day in the Life,” has no dialogue.
A group calling itself the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform uploaded a 30-second ad to You Tube on Tuesday advocating for Bradley using pieces of the same footage. The ad makes no mention of her opponents, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald and 4th District Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg. It doesn’t press for viewers to vote or against Bradley, instead calling her fair and measured.
Since the ad doesn’t specifically call for anyone’s election or defeat, it qualifies as issue advocacy. The state Supreme Court ruled this summer — weeks before Gov. Scott Walker appointed Bradley to the court — that candidates can coordinate with outside groups on such communications. But Bradley pledged in October she wouldn’t coordinate with independent groups, although she added she wouldn’t ask them to stay out of her race.
Luke Martz, Bradley’s campaign manager, said in an email that the footage the campaign uploaded to You Tube is in the public domain and the campaign has no problem with any independent group using it to “continue to showcase a positive message.”
Wisconsin Alliance for Reform spokesman Chris Martin said in a telephone interview that the group used publicly available footage. No one told the group the footage was out there, he added.
“We were never informed by the campaign it was there,” he said. “We just went looking for any kind of footage you can use to produce this thing. We just looked and it was easy to find.”
Melissa Mulliken, Kloppenburg’s campaign manager, said it appears Bradley coordinated.
“When it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it often is a duck,” Mulliken said. “She said she wouldn’t coordinate. This looks like coordination. Voters want and deserve justices and judges they can trust. This calls into question her trustworthiness.”
Asked for comment on the ads, Donald’s campaign pointed to a news release issued Monday accusing Bradley of benefiting from a coordinated campaign operation.
Bradley, then a state appellate judge, announced her candidacy for Justice Patrick Crook’s seat in September. Crooks had already announced he wouldn’t seek re-election and died in his chambers days later. Walker appointed her to serve out the remaining nine-and-a-half months of Crooks’ term, making her the incumbent going into the 2016 elections.
As many candidates have, Bradley has benefited from outside spending in the past. The conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth spent $167,000 in Bradley’s race to retain her seat on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2013.