June 9, 2008

Best of the Wisconsin Bogs

The incestuous farce known as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's "Best of the Wisconsin Blogs" is usually good for a laugh, and this past weekend's offerings are no exception.

The J-S editorial board apparently found themselves a tough choice between professional Republican "critical thinker" Brian Fraley complaining about too many children in strollers at a Milwaukee street festival and a petulant ramble by their fellow Journal Communications employee Jeff Wagner, so they included them both.

Former federal prosecutor Wagner, as if to prove up H.L. Mencken's observation that all lawyers spend their entire careers trying to be something other than lawyers, shares a 620 AM WTMJ microphone with those other profound medium wave cogitators, Charlie Sykes and James T. "Hip Musings" Harris.

"Best of the Wisconsin Blogs" finds Wagner depicting anybody with a continued interest in the rise of State Supreme Court Justice-elect Mike Gableman as "completely unhinged."

Wagner spins furiously, fallaciously conflating the escapades of Gableman with those of Justice Annette Ziegler, whose colleagues on the court last month issued a public reprimand for ethical breaches committed while a circuit judge in Washington County.

Justice Ziegler's travails have nothing to do with Gableman, obviously, while Wagner's attempt to connect the two is pure rhetoric, and failed rhetoric at that.

Rather, the Gableman issue raised last week has to do with the refusal of a number of State officials to investigate at least 52 telephone calls Gableman made to a number of Republican apparatchiks and financial backers in April and May of 2002, while he was the District Attorney for Ashland County.

On June 12, 2002, a fundraiser was held in Cable, WI for then-Governor Scott McCallum (R), who had inherited the executive department of Wisconsin the year before, when George W. Bush selected Tommy Thompson to go to Washington and sidestep Congressional questioning into stem cell research as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Gableman "escorted" McCallum to the event and introduced the Governor just prior to sitting down at the head table with a gaggle of other Republican hotshots for a $625 dinner and photo op.

Wagner casually refers to "several" calls, which means "consisting of an indefinite number but yet not very many." Fifty-two is a pretty definite number, and it's also quite a few more than not very many. The objects of the calls are pretty definite as well:

11 to Mary Stitt
— McCallum campaign contact
10 to Laura Gralton
— McCallum contact for the June 12 event
5 to McCallum campaign HQ
2 to Wisconsin GOP HQ
5 to Johnson Timber
— CEO and president were on the June 12 committee
4 to Johnson Bank
— Regional president was on the June 12 committee
3 to Chuck Johansen
— Member of the June 12 committee
4 to Kurt Carlson
— June 12 head table grandee
9 to Vince Biskupic for State AG campaign HQ

Effective June 3, Gableman resigned as Ashland County DA and was cooling his heels in Appleton, thanks to his appointment to an administrative position by Scott McCallum, which Gableman held for about ten weeks while waiting for his next job.

Then, in August, 2002, Scott McCallum appointed Gableman circuit court judge in Burnett County, even though Gableman hadn't officially applied for the position nor was he vetted by the committee McCallum had appointed to review applicants.

But civil servant/public employee Gableman did contribute $2,500 to McCallum's campaign, half of it on June 18, 2002.

Gableman brought this scrutiny on himself and it's entirely appropriate for the people of Wisconsin to wonder — and continue to wonder — about the circumstances of Gableman's ascent to the State Supreme Court. There's nothing unhinged about such inquiries.

When questioned about the telephone calls earlier this year, Gableman said he couldn't recall the topics of conversation, but he was sure none of them were for political purposes. However, he "may have called to find out details about a visit McCallum was making to the area," according to reporter Patrick Marley.

Fifty-two times, just to make sure he didn't miss it.

What's unhinged here is credulity, which is strained well beyond the breaking point. And it sure is sad for "Best of the Wisconsin Blogs" Jeff Wagner that Gableman isn't quite out of the woods yet.

Document archive at One Wisconsin Now.


Anonymous said...

since the journal sentinel has reported the phone calls, why don't they go further and investigate the content of the calls. by the way, in the interest of accuracy, gableman's job after d.a. did not involve administrative duties per se. his title was "administraive law judge" in unemployment comp., a position that's usually obtained thru the civil service process.

illusory tenant said...

To my knowledge the J-S only reported on the phone calls after Dee J. Hall in the State Journal and others did, almost as an afterthought.

The J-S coverage in general was very poor and gave the impression on several occasions that the Butler campaign was as lowhanded as Gableman's, which is very, very far from the truth.

I'm sure somebody will keep at it, however.