Tag Archives: Club for Growth

Walker insists secret donations from companies he rewarded were legal

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker insists there was nothing illegal about corporate leaders’ donating to a conservative dark money group that helped him and Republican legislators fend off efforts to recall them from office.

Walker responded to questions about a Guardian report on the donations during a news conference in an Edgerton parking lot to highlight his transportation budget. The newspaper obtained more than 1,000 pages of leaked documents from a secret investigation into whether Walker’s campaign illegally coordinated with Wisconsin Club for Growth and other outside groups as he was fighting a bid to oust him from office over his signature law stripping most public employee unions of nearly all of their bargaining rights.

The state Supreme Court halted the investigation in 2015, ruling the coordination was legal since it didn’t lead to express advocacy, a political buzzword for ads that specifically call for a candidate’s defeat or election. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider whether to review that ruling later this month and the Guardian report has thrust the matter back into the headlines. The documents detail Walker and his fundraisers’ efforts to persuade business executives around the country to give to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a Koch-backed group that ran the ads.

Sounding irritated at times, Walker said no one has faced more scrutiny than he has during his six years as governor. Walker said that the courts have repeatedly found the investigation was baseless.

“This is old news,” the governor said. “You want to argue about something that’s already been discussed in the courts? Because people didn’t win in the courts under the law, they want to have a discussion where they’re giving out bits and pieces of information, trying to change the court of public opinion.”

Walker didn’t acknowledge working with the Club for Growth or even mention its name. Asked why he wouldn’t acknowledge having worked closely with it, he said only that he and his supporters were “under attack” in early 2011 after the union restrictions had passed and they thought it was important to get the message out about how the restrictions would help the state.

“We thought it was appropriate to get the message out about the facts, not talking about advocating for or against, expressly advocating for or against candidates, but getting the message out that the reforms would work and indeed they have and that’s what we focused in on,” Walker said.

The Guardian’s documents show that Harold Simmons was among the corporate executives who donated to the Club for Growth. Simmons was the owner of NL Industries, which was a major producer of lead that was used in paint before the practice was banned due to health risks. The documents show Simmons gave the club a total of $750,000 in 2011 and 2012 at the height of the recalls.

Walker and the Republican-led Legislature passed a law in 2013 retroactively shielding lead paint makers from liability and raising the amount of lead allowed in paint. That raised questions of whether the measure, which jeopardized the health of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites, was payback for the donations.

Walker said during the news conference that “nobody should be shocked. … I did what I said I was going to do.” He suggested that the timing was coincidental.

Lead paint is toxic. It can cause a range of health problems, especially in young children, when it’s inhaled or absorbed into the body. It can damage the brain, kidneys, nerves and blood. Lead can also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and even death.

Walker said that whoever leaked the documents to the Guardian, a British newspaper, committed a crime. John Doe investigations are akin to grand jury investigations that require documents to be kept secret. Walker told Milwaukee radio station WTMJ-AM earlier that he would support an investigation into who leaked the documents.

“I think those involved in law enforcement in this state, if they want people to take seriously the orders of the court, should certain do that no matter what the issue is. Otherwise what kind of a system do we live in?”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Rochester Republican, and two other GOP state representatives sent a letter to Attorney General Brad Schimel asking for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the leak. Schimel, a Republican, tweeted he was considering his options. His spokesman, Johnny Koremenos, declined to comment, saying Schimel wouldn’t discuss details that could jeopardize a potential or ongoing investigation.

Louis Weisberg contributed to this story.

 

Right-wing money, politics at issue in Wisconsin Supreme Court race

The two rivals trying to unseat Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley, whom Gov. Scott Walker appointed to the court last October, warned of the influence of partisan politics on the state’s highest court at a candidate forum on Jan. 27.

Bradley and challengers JoAnne Kloppenburg and Joe Donald appeared together for the first time at a forum hosted by the Milwaukee Bar Association, three weeks ahead of the Feb. 16 primary that will narrow the field to two before the April 5 general election.

All three are seeking a 10-year term to replace Justice Patrick Crooks, who died in September. By appointing the relatively inexperienced Bradley, Walker ensured that she’d have the huge advantage of incumbency heading into the elections. Judicial incumbents nearly always win re-election, but some political observers say this appointment could backfire, given Walker’s low approval rating. It could turn the race into a referendum against the unpopular governor.

“It is unprecedented for a Wisconsin governor of any party to appoint a declared judicial candidate to the Supreme Court this close to an election,” said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling at the time of the appointment. “This power grab sets a terrible precedent and doesn’t pass the smell test.”

“The fact that Walker twice named her to judgeships before makes her ‘Walker’s candidate,’ Kloppenburg said in a statement.

“The Bradley campaign and the Republican Party are essentially one and the same,” said a statement from Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joe Donald’s campaign manager, Andy Suchorski, at the time of her appointment.

Neither Kloppenburg nor Donald applied for the vacancy, saying it’s unethical for an announced candidate to apply for a judicial seat while campaigning for it. Even though each is more qualified, they would never have been considered anyhow, given their lack of right-wing credentials.

Walker has appointed Bradley, who has only about four years of judicial experience, to every judicial position that she’s held.

Bradley was so certain he would appoint her to the high court that she registered a website as a Supreme Court justice before the applications were even due.

On Jan. 27, however, Bradley pledged to run “a positive and nonpartisan” campaign and said she welcomes support from anyone who offers it.

She’s a Walker donor, however, and her past support has come primarily from the Republican Party and the dark money groups that pile huge amounts of cash into the coffers of tea party political candidates.

Walker’s first appointment of Bradley helped her narrowly win her race to retain the circuit court job he gave her. But $167,000 from the Koch brother’s Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce also contributed to that victory. The Koch brothers and their corporate allies oppose all government regulations, all watchdog groups and limits on money in politics, and all government assistance programs, including college aid, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. Their ultimate goal is to sell off all public land to corporate interests and privatize all government functions except the military.

Bradley is their perfect candidate. A former president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, a far-right libertarian lawyers group, she’s also belonged to the Thomas Moore Society, a conservative Catholic legal group, and the Republican National Lawyers Association. She began her legal career protecting corporations from liability lawsuits and doctors from malpractice suits.

At the Jan. 27 forum, Kloppenburg, a state appellate judge who was elected to that position on her own, said she would accept campaign funds from any groups except political parties. She said her experience makes her best to do “justice without fear or favor” and to “stand up to special interests.”

Donald, a Milwaukee County Circuit judge, touted his independence. He said the election is important to restore integrity at the Supreme Court and that without a new independent, “we’re stuck with an ideologue on the court for the next 30 years,” referring to Bradley, who is only 44 years old.

Walker draws fire for appointing donor to Supreme Court

As predicted, Gov. Scott Walker has appointed Appeals Court Judge Rebecca Bradley to complete the term of deceased Justice Patrick Crooks on the state Supreme Court. Crooks, who had announced his plan not to seek another term in September, died suddenly on the job on Sept. 21.

The appointment of Bradley, a Walker donor who had never served on the bench until Walker appointed her to a circuit court position three years ago, has outraged critics from both sides of the aisle. They had urged Walker to either leave the position vacant until the next election in April or appoint someone who was not already an announced candidate in the race, as Bradley was.

The circumstances surrounding Bradley’s appointment make it a first. Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg and Circuit Court Judge Joe Donald are also announced candidates, but neither sought Walker’s appointment, as Bradley did.

Walker is unlikely to have appointed either of them due to politics.

Judicial races in Wisconsin are nominally nonpartisan, but the reality is that conservatives and liberals — and well-funded outside groups — coalesce around the candidates they favor and spend millions helping to elect them.

Still, “it is unprecedented for a Wisconsin governor of any party to appoint a declared judicial candidate to the Supreme Court this close to an election,” said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling. “This power grab sets a terrible precedent and doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Critics say that Walker’s appointment of Bradley gives the relatively inexperienced candidate a big boost over her more-seasoned competition. It also turns the race into a referendum on Walker, according to leaders on both sides of the aisle.

“The fact that Walker twice named her to judgeships before makes her ‘Walker’s candidate,’ Kloppenburg said in a statement.

Walker’s first appointment of Bradley helped her narrowly win her first judicial race to retain the job he gave her. Also helping her victory were $167,000 in contributions from the Koch brother’s Club for Growth and the Republican Party.

Bradley began her legal career protecting corporations from liability lawsuits and doctors from malpractice suits. She moved on to commercial, technology and intellectual property law before Walker lifted her from obscurity by seating her on a circuit court bench in 2012.

Although Crooks was considered a swing vote on the court, he ruled with the Republican majority 80 percent of the time. Bradley has signaled that she might be more flexible than the standard-issue Walker acolyte on somce issues, including LGBT rights and child welfare.

But her backing comes from such right-wing groups as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which reportedly urged another conservative candidate not to run against her. Brady served as president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Federaliost Sociaty, a far-right lawyers group, and belonged to the Thomas Moore Society, a conservative Catholic legal group. She’s also belonged to the Republican National Lawyers Association.

During what critics called Walker’s “coronation” of Bradley, he claimed she had the best resume for the job, even though she’s only been a judge for three years and was appointed to every position she’s held by Walker. Perhaps one of her attractions is Bradley’s relative youth. At 44, she could go on to serve several 10-year terms, helping to keep a solid right-wing majority on the state’s high court for an entire generation.

Reactions to Bradley’s appointment were swift and angry.

“(Walker) is giving a campaign contributor an unfair advantage in the race next year so Wisconsin residents will have no chance at having an open and fair election for the Supreme Court Justice seat,” charged Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning in a prepared statement. Rebecca Bradley has given … to Gov. Walker and today it is paying off for her with her appointment to the Supreme Court.”

But Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, warned that Bradley’s appointment could backfire: “The governor making this appointment so close to the election does not serve the public well but is in line with Republicans’ continued right-wing special interest stranglehold on our state. However, I question why a judicial candidate would want to be so closely linked to a governor with a 37 percent approval rating.”

Kloppenburg came close to unseating controversial Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser in 2011, losing by 7,000 votes out of the 5 million cast. That race came at a time when left-wing bitterness against Walker over Act 10 was at its height. Prosser vowed on the campaign trail to support the governor’s policies from the bench — a jarring message to deliver in a campaign that’s supposed to be non-partisan.

Kloppenburg, however, took the high road, running a relatively low-key campaign in which she refused to talk about partisan issues. She says she’ll be more aggressive in this race.

Donald is positioning himself as the only non-partisan candidate in the race. 

Garren Randolph, a spokesperson for the Joe Donald for Justice campaign, issued a press release saying that unlike Bradley or Kloppenburg, Donald “has served for 19 years as an independent judge, and is earning support across the ideological spectrum because he is the only candidate in the race who represents a truly independent judiciary.”

Donald was appointed by Republican Governor Tommy Thompson.

“Neither Scott Walker nor his political opponents can expect Judge Donald to toe the party line — any party,” Randolph said in his statement.

UPDATE: Walker appoints Bradley to Wisconsin Supreme Court, changes election landscape

UPDATED: The death of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patrick Crooks with 10 months left in his term has set up a spring election that’s as much a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker as it is on who should serve on the state’s highest court.

Walker has appointed appeals Judge Rebecca Bradley to hold the position in advance of the election next year, in which she’s already a candidate.

Common Cause in Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Wisconsin Voices had sent Walker a letter asking him not to name one of the three candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to fill out Crooks’ term, which runs through July 31, 2016.

But Walker did not heed their advice. He introduced Bradley as the appointee during a news conference on Oct. 9. The AP reported the appointment earlier in the day.

Bradley, at the news conference, said she didn’t expect the appointment by Walker to give her an advantage — or disadvantage — on Election Day. “I think when the voters are evaluating judicial candidates they look less at who’s appointed them and they look at their record on the bench, how they conducted their campaigns and what their qualifications and experiences are. I don’t think they look at who has appointed that judge or justice.”

The governor has been behind Bradley during every step of her rapid judicial rise. He’s twice named her to lower court openings and he likely was a factor in the $167,000 she got from the Koch brothers’ Club for Growth and the Republican Party to retain the relatively obscure seat to which he first appointed her on Milwaukee Circuit Court’s Branch 45.

That was in 2012. In 2013, aided by all the donations, she retained the seat against a challenger, earning 53 percent of the vote. In May, Walker appointed Bradley to the District 1 Court of Appeals.

Now, just three years after her first appointment to the bench by Walker, Bradley, 43, has her sights set on the state’s highest court. With her appointment by Walker, she has the advantage of running as an incumbent in the race for a 10-year term next April. 

Despite holding generally conservative views on issues like abortion and corporate entitlements, Bradley has high-profile friends in Milwaukee’s LGBT community and seemed very pro-gay during an interview with WiG two years ago. Likable and charismatic, she’s not the kind of judicial candidate normally associated with Wisconsin Republicans. It’s hard to predict what kind of Supreme Court jurist she’d make, but the safest guess is that she’d be more of a swing vote than a staunch ideologue.

Two other candidates had also announced their plans to run before Crooks died — JoAnne Kloppenburg and Joe Donald. Both are far more experienced jurists than Bradley and both are to the left of her politically.

In the past, Democrats have heavily backed Appeals Court Judge Kloppenburg. She came close to unseating Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser in 2011, losing by 7,000 votes out of the 5 million cast. That race came at a time when left-wing bitterness against Walker over Act 10 was at its height. Prosser vowed on the campaign trail to support the governor’s policies from the bench — a jarring message to deliver in a campaign that’s supposed to be non-partisan.

Kloppenburg, however, took the high road, running a relatively low-key campaign in which she refused to talk about partisan issues. She says she’ll be more aggressive in this race.

While Kloppenburg is generally considered the frontrunner for progressives, her fundraising for the 2016 race has been languid so far. Most of the $27,000 she’d raised as of September came from a loan she made to her own campaign. 

The third candidate, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald, presents himself as the most politically independent choice of the three, although Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca and other Democrats back him. He began his campaign with robust fundraising, taking in $109,000 by the end of June.

Races for the Supreme Court are officially nonpartisan, but the reality in recent years has been conservatives and liberals — and well-funded outside groups — coalesce around the candidates they favor and spend millions helping to elect them.

Coronation

Naming Bradley to the court solidifies Walker’s ties with her and makes the election “absolutely … a referendum on Walker,” Jay Heck, director of government watchdog group Common Cause in Wisconsin, said before the appointment. “That’s really not where the Supreme Court needs to be.”

In defense of considering Bradley for the vacant seat, Walker had cited two examples of judges who were appointed to openings and later ran for full terms. But in both cases from the 1990s, the judges had not announced their plans to run before they were appointed by then-Gov. Tommy Thompson.

The situation caused by Crooks’ death on Sept. 21 is different.

Crooks, who had been in failing health, had said he was not going to run for re-election. All three of the candidates were actively campaigning when Crooks died.

Walker had insisted that he would base his appointment decision on three criteria: finding someone who is an outstanding attorney, has integrity and “understands the proper role of a judge.”

Earlier this month, Kloppenburg said appointing Bradley “would appear to be an attempt to thwart the people’s will.” 

In a statement on Oct. 9, Kloppenburg said, “The choice in this campaign could now not be clearer: Gov. Walker’s choice or the people’s choice. I am running to be the people’s choice for Supreme Court. And I am asking the people of Wisconsin to stand with me in the coming election, for the integrity of our judicial system and against partisan politics and special interests on our Court.”

Garren Randolph, a spokesperson for the Joe Donald for Justice campaign, said, “What the people of Wisconsin want is truly independent judges. The public expects judges who don’t come to the bench with an ideological agenda, and who approach cases with an open mind. Cases should be decided based on the facts, the application of law, and under constitutional principles.

“By appointing Rebecca Bradley to the Circuit Court, to the Court of Appeals and now to the Supreme Court, Gov. Scott Walker has now elevated a loyal ally three times in four years, including twice in the last year. This abbreviated process simply cannot withstand public scrutiny.” 

Reaction to the appointment

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, responding to Bradley’s appointment on Oct. 9, said in a news release, “Wisconsin residents deserve a fair and impartial Supreme Court and Gov. Walker’s appointment of a campaign contributor who has already declared she is running for the open seat next year has destroyed any possibility of a fair election.”

The party said Walker is giving Bradley “an unfair advantage in the race next year so Wisconsin residents will have no chance at having an open and fair election for the Supreme Court Justice seat. Rebecca Bradley has given generously to Gov. Walker and today it is paying off for her with her appointment to the Supreme Court.”

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha added, “It is no surprise that Gov. Walker appointed the handpicked conservative candidate for Supreme Court. The governor’s actions are entirely consistent with Republican efforts to ensure the continued protection of corporate and special interests over the economic security of Wisconsin citizens.”

And Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse said, “It is unprecedented for a Wisconsin governor of any party to appoint a declared judicial candidate to the Supreme Court this close to an election. This power grab sets a terrible precedent and doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Editor’s note: This story is being updated.

Conservative group to spend $1 million to attack Trump in Iowa

A conservative advocacy group says it will spend at least $1 million on TV ads attacking Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump in the early primary voting state of Iowa.

The Club for Growth announced its plans on Sept. 15, a day before the second Republican presidential primary debate.

Club president David McIntosh says the billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star would be “terrible on economic growth.” He called Trump “the worst kind of politician.”

Trump has criticized the Washington-based Club for Growth as being bitter because he refused to give them a $1 million contribution.

For now, the club appears to be going it alone in paying for Trump attack ads.

Larger conservative advocacy groups and the 15 other major candidates in the Republican primary have no immediate plans for a similar paid television campaign.

Supreme Court rejects appeal to halt Walker investigation

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning rejected a petition from conservative groups seeking to halt a probe into whether Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated activities with the Koch brothers’ Club for Growth and other “dark money” Republican organizations.

The right-wing groups seeking to end the investigation did not argue they were innocent of the charges, but rather that it infringed on their constitutional rights to free speech and free association.

Last week, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and four other journalism groups won a lengthy battle for access to documents concerning Walker’s second so-called John Doe probe. The first, which concerned his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, resulted in the conviction of several Walker staffers on charges of corruption, embezzlement and working on campaign activities while being paid by the government to do work for Milwaukee County.

The documents released last week show that Walker was planning to argue that his coordination with Club for Growth was not illegal because it happened before he was an officially declared candidate in his 2012 recall race.

The case now goes to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which is expected to rule by the end of June whether the investigation can proceed. The court is almost certain to rule in Walker’s favor. Its conservative majority received millions of dollars in campaign donations from Club for Growth and some of the other same right-wing groups involved in Walker’s case.

The Republican lead investigator has called on the justices to recuse themselves from the case, but Chief Justice Patience Roggensack has ruled that justices don’t need to recuse themselves from cases in which there’s  a real or perceived conflict of interest, including campaign donations from one of the parties in a case.

Walker dismisses report of big Menard donation, tax breaks

Likely presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week dismissed a report that he helped steer tax credits and eased up on environmental oversight to benefit national hardware chain Menards after its billionaire owner donated $1.5 million to a conservative group.

Yahoo News has reported that John Menard Jr. gave the money to Wisconsin Club for Growth to help advance Walker’s agenda when he faced a recall election in 2012, citing several unidentified sources. Such donations are legal under campaign finance law and are not subject to limits or a requirement they be disclosed publicly.

Wisconsin Club for Growth attorney David Rivkin issued a statement that did not address the question of whether Menard made the donations.

“The other side wants to promote some kind of conspiracy theory where a contribution to the Club to help it weigh in on public policy is somehow transformed into an arrangement with the Governor, but they have absolutely no support for it at all because that never happened,” Rivkin said.

Menards corporate spokesman Jeff Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Menards, in 2013 and 2014, qualified for up to $1.8 million in tax breaks from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the state’s chief jobs-creation agency, which Walker heads. The company has so far earned $164,000 in those years, a governor’s spokeswoman said.

Walker was asked about the story as he left a state building commission meeting on March 24. He said, “I haven’t engaged in any of that and there’s going to be lots of stories going forward. He then walked away as an aide told reporters that he would not take questions.

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick followed up with a statement saying the governor had no involvement in Menards being awarded the tax credits. The Menards contracts did not require a vote by the WEDC board because they fell below the threshold of $10 million, Patrick said. The deals were negotiated exclusively by WEDC staff, she said.

Menards has so far earned only $164,000 under the 2013 and 2014 contracts because the credits were “strictly performance based with strong contractual requirements to meet performance objectives,” Patrick said.

Menards also qualified for $1.5 million in tax breaks and received $1 million under Democratic former Gov. Jim Doyle.

The Yahoo story said the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources under Walker had drastically cut back enforcement actions, suggesting payback for the Menard contributions. Patrick rejected that, saying the department is using the same enforcement protocol it has for decades.

Mining the bottom of the political pits

The latest court documents released from the John Doe investigation of Gov. Scott Walker’s political activities provide an unsurprising but depressing look at how low American politics has sunk.

Apparently Walker instructed donors to get around state-mandated limits on individuals’ donations to his campaign by contributing unlimited amounts to the Koch brothers-backed group Wisconsin Club for Growth. Under the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, individuals and corporations can give whatever they want to third-party political action committees advocating for issues instead of candidates.

The problem here, of course, is that Club for Growth’s issue was advocating for Walker — to help him win his recall race and continue moving forward with their corporate agenda like a charging bull. Emails among Walker’s staffers make that irrefutably clear.

Did the strategy amount to illegal coordination of fundraising under state law? That’s for prosecutors to decide. If Walker is indicted, he’ll be regarded as a martyr by the right; if not, the left will continue to whine about “fairness,” as if such a concept ever existed in politics. The only thing that really matters is that the money Walker raised for CFG was successfully used to promote his messaging and win his recall race.

The most damning donation to the complex Walker campaign apparatus was the $700,000 donation from Gogebic, the company that wants to build a massive, open-pit iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills. As an assemblyman, Walker reportedly opposed mining expansion — as well he should have. It creates a modicum of short-term jobs but very long-term profits for its out-of-state owners and even longer-term, perhaps permanent, damage to the environment.

It’s now embarrassing for Walker and his apologists that one of the first things he did after being elected was to ram through changes in the mine-permitting process without even first gathering input from residents near the mining area. The scenario is no different in effect than the pay-to-play scandals that have landed so many elected officials in prison, even if proving causality in this case is probably impossible.

But we already knew that this was how Walker — and, to be fair, nearly everyone else in politics these days — flies. What’s far more disturbing is that voters have become so accustomed to it, they only complain when an elected official on the other end of the political spectrum is caught. Otherwise, it’s business as usual.

No one should accept this sort of behavior from any candidate affiliated with any political party. Our democratic process has collapsed into a scheme that seeks only to manipulate and trick voters by inundating them with misleading spin and outright lies. The more money you have, the more and cleverer propaganda you can churn out via mailers, print ads and commercials. The higher the office, the more this costs. That’s why our leaders spend the vast majority of their time raising fundraising.

Is it any wonder that nothing ever gets done for the average working stiff?

The big bucks rule in today’s America. And those who believe that’s a good thing — that after 30 years of failure, trickle-down is magically going to help the poor and middle-class lift themselves up by their bootstraps and join the country club — are living proof of how effective mass messaging has become. Once they’re sufficiently propagandized, people will stop believing their own lying eyes.

There’s only one way out of this tragic ending to the great American experiment in government: a constitutional amendment that overturns Citizens United.

Can it happen? That seems to depend on how much the people against Citizens United can raise versus how much the mega-corporations who are for it can raise.

How much are you in for?

It’s a jungle out there for animals in campaign ads

It’s a jungle out there in political television advertising, what with parrots, chicks, dogs and pigs taking turns in commercials that bite and scratch in a way no nonpartisan pet ever would.

“You can keep it,” squawked a parrot in a Club for Growth Action ad that ran earlier in the year in Arkansas. It was meant to ridicule President Barack Obama and Sen. Mark Pryor’s now-abandoned claims that state residents could keep their health insurance if they liked it.

In Georgia, Democratic Rep. John Barrow unleashed a golden retriever in the first television ad of his campaign for a new term. “Somebody once said if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” he says.

“Well, I wouldn’t wish Washington on a dog,” Barrow adds, throwing a tennis ball to be fetched. By the time he has finished touting his own record and criticizing other lawmakers, the dog and ball are back. “She works harder than most of them do,” he says, comparing the pet favorably to the men and women he has known in Congress for a decade.

Whether peddling candidates or commercial products, the goal of commercials is to gain as wide and attentive a viewership as possible. Anything that gets a longer look is prized.

“Animals can be a great way to get the viewer to stop skipping through the commercials on their DVR or delay a trip to the fridge during a commercial break,” said Ali Lapp, executive director of the House Majority PAC, a group that backs Democrats in House campaigns.

Not only can animals be cute or cuddly, but they often trigger predictable emotions among humans. Pork, tasty when eaten, produces indigestion in the form of government spending.

Nor are animals new to political advertising.

Three decades ago, in his re-election campaign, President Ronald Reagan aired a commercial about a bear, a readily recognizable symbol for the Soviet Union.

“There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all,” the announcer said as a grizzly lumbered across the landscape. The commercial’s strong suggestion was that Reagan’s Democratic opponent Walter Mondale was among those unable to see the danger posed by a rival superpower.

No bears, grizzly or teddy, have wandered from the woods onto television screens yet this campaign season.

But Joni Ernst won the Republican Senate nomination in Iowa after airing a commercial in which she said she grew up on a farm and can castrate hogs. “So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” she says as a pig squeals in the background.

Making sure the point isn’t missed, she says of the big spenders, “Let’s make ’em squeal,” a command the pigs are heard to obey promptly.

Rival Bruce Braley, a Democratic congressman, looked around the political barnyard and figured chicks could handle his rival’s pigs.

“When Joni Ernst had a chance to do something in Iowa, we didn’t hear a peep,” the announcer says as a small, brown-eyed chick appears on screen, chirping at first, then growing more animated as the political accusations escalate.

Fortunately for the Club for Growth, parrots are able to do more than chirp or squeal.

Enter a blue parrot with yellow and green markings that goes by the name of Harley and is intent on mocking Obama and Pryor.

“We will keep this promise. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period,” Obama says in remarks made as he was seeking passage of his health care legislation.

Squawks the parrot: “Keep your doctor.”

Obama, again: “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it.”

Parrot: “You can keep it.”

Pryor says: “What’s the bottom line. Are we going to be able to stick with our plan? The answer is yes.”

Parrot: “Keep your plan.”

“Tell Sen. Pryor to stop parroting President Obama,” says the announcer.

Judge who halted ‘John Doe’ probe attended Koch-funded junkets

The U.S. district judge who earlier this month halted the “John Doe” criminal probe into spending in the 2011-12 recall elections attended judicial junkets funded by the ultra-conservative Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, according to a report from the Center for Media and Democracy.

The all-expenses paid junkets also received funding from the Lynne and Harry Bradley Foundation, according to the Center for Media and Democracy’s prwatch.org.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa blocked the Doe probe on May 6. Investigators were looking into alleged illegal coordination between nonprofits such as the Wisconsin Club for Growth and Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign, as well as the campaigns of state senators facing a recall vote.

Wisconsin Club for Growth and director Eric O’Keefe asked the court to stop the investigation on the grounds that it violated freedom of speech.

Randa did stop the investigation and ordered the destruction of evidence gathered by prosecutors — an order that’s been put on hold pending an appeals court review.

The Center for Media and Democracy reported that Randa attended judicial seminars put on George Mason University in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012, which were private-funded and all-expenses paid.

“The George Mason University seminars are bankrolled by a long list of right-wing foundations, like Koch, Bradley and the Searle Freedom Trust, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporations like BP, ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical,” the center stated. “

The center based its reporting on a review of financial disclosure documents and said no other federal district judges in the state attended the George Mason programs.

The watchdog group noted that the Koch foundation gave $5.45 million in 2012 to the George Mason University Foundation and another $51,000 to the George Mason Law and Economics Center. The Koch network also has contributed funding the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the nonprofit involved in the case Randa ruled on.