On January 14, 2012, the Badger Democracy blog “Gableman’s links to Koch Industries make impartiality impossible” presented evidence of Koch-influenced money-making its way into State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman’s campaign. The piece also disclosed a seldom referenced Wall Street Journal article by John J. Fialka from 1999 documenting the Koch Industries’ method for influencing the Judiciary. Koch had begun a pattern of sponsoring “educational” seminars for state justices from around the nation, headed by their own legal “experts.”
Based on Gableman’s financial and legal links to Koch Industries referenced in the 1/14/12 blog, Badger Democracy submitted the following open records request the Justice Gableman:
Dear Justice Gableman,
This letter is to request the following records, under the state’s Open Records Law (19.31-39, Wisconsin Statutes):
Communications and records to or referencing the following entities/individuals:
John D. Bryan, from 1/2008 – 1/2012
In addition, travel records relevant to Justice Gableman’s attendance or participation at any professional conferences or seminars for judges/justices from 1/2006 – 1/2012 including the location of the conference, and who paid for travel and registration costs. While some of this time is prior to Judge Gableman’s tenure as State Supreme Court Justice, the request of records while he was a Circuit Court Judge is relevant to the nature of my request.
Please be aware that the Open Records law defines “record” to include information that is maintained on paper as well as electronically, such as data files and unprinted emails. Wis. Stat. § 19.32(2).
Please also be aware that the Open Records law “shall be construed in every instance with the presumption of complete public access consistent with the conduct of governmental business. The denial of access generally is contrary to the public interest and only in exceptional cases can access be denied.” If you deny my request, the law requires you to do so in writing and state what part of the law you believe entitles you to deny my request. Wis. Stat. § 19.35(4)(a).
The Open Records law states that you may charge for “the actual, necessary and direct cost” of locating records, if this exceeds $50, and for photocopies. The Wisconsin Department of Justice advises that copying fees under the Open Records law should be “around 15 cents per page and that anything in excess of 25 cents may be suspect.”
As you know, the law requires you to respond to this request “as soon as practicable and without delay.”
If you are not the records custodian for this information, please forward this request to the appropriate person. Also, please let me know if I can clarify or refine this request.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Scott Wittkopf, Badger Democracy blog
Gableman responded with records of travel to and from state seminars while he was a Circuit Court Justice, with the last record ending in October, 1997. If these records are to be believed, Gableman has not attended a judicial seminar since 1997.
According to the Wisconsin Judicial Education Board, Justices of the Supreme Court are required to attend educational seminars a minimum number of hours every six months. In addition, according to Court sources, it is common for Supreme Court Justices to attend seminars and conferences out-of-state.
Based on this information, Badger Democracy submitted the following email to Jonah Horwitz in the office of Justice Gableman today, March 2nd:
After our conversation this afternoon, I contacted the Court Judicial Education division. Supreme Court Justices are required to attend professional seminars by the state, therefore Justice Gableman’s response to my request is incomplete. I am forwarding you a copy of the original request submitted on January 15, 2012 for your reference. I would ask Justice Gableman to pay particular attention to the following section of the request:
…travel records relevant to Justice Gableman’s attendance or participation at any professional conferences or seminars for judges/justices from 1/2006 – 1/2012 including the location of the conference, and who paid for travel and registration costs.
This would include any conferences attended out-of-state, which Justice Gableman has participated in as a Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I would ask that you fulfill this request completely without delay.
Scott Wittkopf, Badger Democracy blog
One of Gableman’s largest individual donors is a Koch Industries presenter at virtually all their political “forums.” His new attorney has ties to Rupert Murdoch and Koch Industries. It is not a stretch to think that Gableman has attended “judicial education” seminars put on by Koch “experts” – which are even held at public universities.
Why were the Gableman records incomplete, ending over a decade ago when the request was very clear? As a follow-up, a request is being submitted to the GAB ethics board. relevant to this information.
It is becoming apparent who is buying the judiciary not only in Wisconsin, but across the nation…stay tuned.