Badger Democracy has obtained information through open records requests and personal interviews that point to a close circle of friends working together to push the State Supreme Court into taking on the Voter ID question – just in time for the November election.
Conspiracy may be too strong a word, but the trio of David Prosser (Supreme Court Justice), JB VanHollen (Wisconsin Attorney General), and Brian Schimming (lobbyist, state GOP vice chair, former Prosser staffer) have motive, opportunity, and are in position to make it happen. The three have a definitive history; appearing together at Americans For Prosperity conferences (as speakers/presenters) in 2009, 2010, and frequent state GOP events as recently as 2012.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law is on hold after two Dane County judges declared the law unconstitutional in March and July. Wisconsin Attorney General JB VanHollen has previously asked the State Supreme Court to use original jurisdiction, and take the case before the Circuit Courts ruled – the high court declined.
AG VanHollen made a second request of the Court to take the case in late August; in spite of the law being declared unconstitutional by two lower courts. There are also two Federal cases pending against the Voter ID law in Judge Lynn Adelman’s Eastern District Court. The most compelling of which is “Frank v. Walker” (Case 2:11-cv-01128); challenging whether the law violates the fundamental right to vote under the Equal Protection Clause, violates the Twenty-Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments as an unconstitutional poll tax, and violates the Equal Protection Clause in arbitrarily refusing to accept certain identification documents.
Based on all these current and compelling Constitutional challenges, and the Court’s previous refusal to intervene; VanHollen’s request of the Court is a significant hill to climb. Unless he knew he had some inside help. Like David Prosser – conservative leader of the Court. Any direct contact with Van Hollen or his office would be too obvious; he needed a middle man…former Prosser clerk, Walker ally, and VanHollen associate Brian Schimming.
In late August, immediately after VanHollen’s second filing, requesting the Court to take the Voter ID case; Badger Democracy followed up on a tip that Schimming was acting as a middle man with Prosser and Van Hollen to lobby the Court to take up Voter ID. After several phone calls to Supreme Court Justice offices in the Capitol, an anonymous (for obvious reasons) and extremely reliable and non-partisan source stated that while Mr. Schimming was a frequent visitor to Justice Prosser; in July and early August there was a marked increase in these “visits” to Prosser’s office witnessed firsthand by this source.
Badger Democracy immediately filed open records requests with Justice Prosser for the following:
1. Schedule for Justice Prosser to include meetings and conferences from 7/1/12 – 8/21/12
2. Any communication or correspondence with or from Brian Schimming from 7/1/12 – 8/21/12
In addition, the following inquiry to DOJ spokesperson Dana Brueck:
I probably know the response to this, but am obligated to ask: Has AG Van Hollen had any meetings recently with Brian Schimming?
Brueck’s response was prompt : “Not to my knowledge…”
The Prosser Response
came back on August 27. Prosser refused to comply with the schedule request, as it contained “personal” matters which were not subject to open records. In addition, Justice Prosser had no “personal contact” with Mr. Schimming during the time period of concern.
As the response was not pertinent to the request – having to do with “personal matters” a clarification was issued:
1. The schedule request is for his public schedule, in his function as a Supreme Court Justice. Allow me to clarify – the request is for Justice Prosser’s office schedule for the period 7/1/12 – 8/21/12 regarding Court business and/or conferences regarding matters before Justice Prosser as a Justice of the State Supreme Court.
2. The communication request regarding Mr. Brian Schimming and Justice Prosser is not, as your letter states, regarding “meetings or conferences.” This would be covered by the first request. Nor does it imply “personal correspondence.” Again, this is regarding official Court communication – including emails. I would clarify this request is for Justice Prosser emails and communications referencing Mr. Schimming, or emails to/from Mr. Schimming for the same time period.
A response was received on September 6, 2012 from Prosser’s office
. The schedule again was not submitted. A statement was offered explaining that no entries specifically referencing “Court business and/or conferences regarding matters before Justice Prosser as a Justice of the State Supreme Court”
were found on the schedule. Although my request was clear in its meaning – scheduled court business and meetings for Justice Prosser; this is clearly an attempt to sidestep the schedule request.
As for the second portion of the request, Prosser’s office reiterated that “there were no meetings between Mr. Schimming and Justice Prosser during that time period.” That response presents a problem. By this time, another source within the Court offices in the Capitol had independently verified frequent meetings between Schimming and Prosser during that time period. The two sources have zero motive or partisanship in this matter. They are merely conveying observations.
Badger Democracy has called Justice Prosser’s office twice since September 6, and asked for verification of the information in the open records request. Prosser’s office was also informed that conflicting information existed regarding their response; and asked if they wished to respond to clarify events. As of this writing, no response has been received.
Clearly, Prosser is not being forthright in his responses. In addition, Brueck’s response from DOJ was qualified with “to my knowledge.” Any coordination between VanHollen and Schimming on Prosser’s behalf could easily be done without her knowledge.
Brian Schimming has failed to respond to frequent phone calls regarding this matter.
The fact that there are two sources within the Court itself, independent of each other, corroborating the same information in regard to Schimming’s frequency of “visits” to Prosser’s office – and Prosser’s subsequent omission and denial, make the circumstances more compelling and likely.
The Court could announce the taking up of Voter ID as early as this afternoon; in spite of the GAB being on record that to implement the law now would create “chaos.” Brian Schimming, acting as a go-between for David Prosser and JB VanHollen; to use Prosser’s conservative influence with the conservative majority, to take up and reinstate Voter ID in Wisconsin. Just in time to create chaos.
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