Progressives in Wisconsin are up with a TV ad that puts the negative in negative campaigning: sitting state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser defends child molesters instead of their victims, the groups say.
“Tell David Prosser judges should protect our children,” the ad’s narrator states, “not sex offenders.”
The ad is the latest salvo in a bitter judicial election fight that many observers say has become the latest battlefield in the wider unions vs. Gov. Scott Walker (R) war in the Badger State.
Here’s the ad, currently running on TV in Wisconsin:
And here’s the context:
As Eric Kleefeld reported last week, this normally boring judicial election has “quickly turned into a proxy political battle.” Those supporting Walker and his push to gut the collective bargaining rights for thousands of state workers stand with Prosser, while labor groups and progressives bent on defeating Walker, and possibly recalling him, are publicly supporting Prosser’s opponent, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg.
Though the election is nominally non-partisan, Prosser has run into a buzzsaw thanks a campaign statement from December where team Prosser touted the Justice as a “complement” to Walker (a comment Prosser later distanced himself from) and the revelation that he once called the Chief Justice of the court he serves on “a total bitch.” Prosser later acknowledged he “probably overreacted.”
So there was fertile ground for liberals to plant the seeds of an insurgency against the incumbent Prosser. But then came yesterday’s appellate court ruling requesting the state’s highest court take up Walker’s collective bargaining law. That put the battle over collective bargaining squarely on the shoulders of the court, which has amped up an already bitter race.
The unions say the race is not a proxy for the anger over Walker’s budget. The “real referendum” over the budget bill, they say, is the recall battle that threatens to pull eight sitting state Senators from office. But anti-Walker folks acknowledge that the budget fight has kicked up interest in the judicial race.
And it’s clear that Kloppenburg supporters aren’t afraid to make the connection. “Prosser = Walker” reads this site from the left-leaning Greater Wisconsin Committee, which is running ads against Prosser, including the one that suggests he puts the rights of sexually-abused children behind the political needs of the Catholic Church.
The GWC did not respond to a request for comment on their ads.
Walker supporters are also feeding the idea that the Prosser race is a proxy for their battles with labor. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, a group that bills itself as the state’s “Business Voice” is running pro-Prosser ads like this one that directly connect the judicial race to the Wisconsin collective bargaining fight.
A MWC spokesperson declined to discuss his group’s campaign with TPM, claiming that the “there’s been a lot of prank calls here lately, as you may have heard” and promising to call back after he had vetted us. That call never came.
Meanwhile, the GWC ad is making quite an impact, as you’d probably expect. Already the group has been slammed by a victim of the priest Prosser is accused of protecting in the spot, who says that the ad is “offensive, inaccurate and out of context.” In 2008, the victim was one of Prosser’s critics. But now, with his case dragged into the latest battle between left and right in Wisconsin, he tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he’d just as soon keep the sex abuse stuff out of the labor war.
“I’m so sick and tired of dirty politics,” he said.