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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes


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The Club for Growth releases a treasure-trove of internal emails showing how the stacked Bar Association watch-dog committee behaved when they thought no one was looking.  (By the way, my name seems to come up quite a bit.)


The Wisconsin Judicial Integrity Campaign Committee (WJCIC), a "nonpartisan" panel designed to judge the ethical conduct of candidates and organizations for Wisconsin's upcoming Supreme Court race has made false and misleading statements to the media, coordinated partisan attacks to silence critics, and even recommended strategies for Louis Butler's campaign. 

E-mails obtained through an open records request by Wisconsin Club for Growth demonstrate that the clandestine attempt to railroad the campaign of Judge Mike Gableman does not match the "nonpartisan" rhetoric espoused by the committee's chair, Tom Basting, President of the State Bar of Wisconsin. (Copies of the emails referred to in this special edition can be viewed on the Club's website here)

In January, the Club for Growth exposed the overwhelmingly partisan nature of the WJCIC with a thorough review of members' campaign contributions and other political affiliations. 



Some of the most revealing items involve political strategist Bill Kraus and his attempts to help the campaign of Justice Loophole Louie Butler.


Sour Kraus: Advising the Butler Campaign 

Time and again the WJCIC demonstrated blatant partisanship when they thought nobody was looking, despite Basting's claims to the contrary. More from the WisPolitics interview:

    Ross: "Now obviously, all of you on the committee have an intense
    interest in the race for various reasons. I mean, you guys are all in
    law, so I assume there will be some personal feelings or political
    allegiances one way or another. How do you put those aside when
    you're judging these ads going from here through until April 1."

    Basting: "Well, uh, first of all, when you say we're all involved in law
    that's not correct, because there are more laypeople on this
    committee than there are lawyers. And, if you take a look at the
    make-up of the committee it is not dominated by lawyers at all, and I
    specifically wanted it that way. I think it would be unwise to have
    lawyers only on this committee, or to have a majority of lawyers on
    this committee. Uh, we have asked all the members of the committee
    to put aside their personal feelings about either candidate, it's none
    of our business who our committee members will ultimately vote for,
    that's why we have a secret ballot. Uh, and um, I don't think personal
    likes, dislikes, or anything else are going to play any role in the
    judgment of the committee members if and when we look at, or are
    asked to look at, political ads."

Source: WisPolitics Interview 1/30/08

Apparently "Republican" WJCIC member Bill Kraus didn't get the memo. 

Not only did Kraus openly express his personal disdain for individuals and organizations, but he took it upon himself to offer campaign advice to Butler and to try to coerce the Gableman campaign to comply with the committee's demands.

In a December 19th email regarding the Gableman campaign response to the WJCIC ruling Kraus takes a personal shot at Gableman consultant Darrin Schmitz and Wisconsin Club for Growth advisor, R.J. Johnson. 

    "Darrin is the legitimate child of the demon RJ Johnson an advocate
     of wedge politics from whence all the trouble arises.  A sharp poke
     in the slats is my recommendation."

Source: Kraus email to WJCIC Members 12/19/07

On January 6th, Kraus advocates threatening the Gableman campaign with a public shaming if they don't return the signed pledge.

    "We can, and should, make some noise if, as, and when the
     promised pledge from Butler arrives and ask where his opponent's

Source: Kraus email to WJCIC Members 1/6/08

In a separate email, Kraus reiterates his desire to go after Gableman:

    "If anyone in the press is attentive enough to ask the right question, it
     will give us the opportunity to let them know where Gableman is
     getting his bad advice."

Source: Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/8/08 

On January 12, 2008, after learning the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) had released a video featuring Marquette Law Professor Rick Esenberg, Kraus offers advice to the Butler campaign, referring to the state chamber of commerce as the enemy:

    "This seems to me to be a Butler campaign problem/opportunity.
     Surely they are familiar with the enemies' strategy.  If not, someone
     can refer them to something that happened in 1978 when a
     candidate was attacked by outsiders and used that to question the
     motives and even the fact of their participation.

    Butler can talk about the professor's oversimplifications and about
    the megaphone supplied by WMC and take the boost that gives him
    without mentioning his opponent.  And, of course, he can also use
    the platform this attack provides to talk about what the campaign is
     really about and his own virtues.

    Just a suggestion."

Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/12/08

Later Kraus reveals his mole:

    "Bob Williams reports that he got a call from Gableman which gave
     him the impression that he won't sign.  Williams told him that he's
     handing his opponent an issue that he shouldn't.  Butler doesn't
     have to attack or even criticize him; all he has to do is ask the
     unanswerable question:  Why isn't he signing?"

    "Paranoia induces stupidity."

Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/21/08

Of course no repudiation of conservative principles would be complete without a thorough condemnation of talk radio, and this partisanship wasn't limited solely to Kraus. 

When the Committee found out radio talk show host Charlie Sykes had been discussing the Club for Growth report on the committee's bias, Basting said

    "I figure that if Sykes is criticizing us, we MUST be doing a good

Source: Bastings Email to WJCIC Members 1/4/08

Kraus followed up with;

    "Replying to Charlie is the equivalent of getting into a pissing contest
     with a skunk.  I concede he has more power than he deserves,
     particularly among Republicans.  But obviously he doesn't get it that
     we are trying to de-partisanize these elections."

Source: Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/4/08

A January 24th e-mail from Adam Korbitz spun Sykes' attacks as a positive:

    "Also, for what it is worth, we were encouraged by other attendees
     who stated that the withering attacks from bloggers and talk show
     hosts are a good and positive sign that we are being taken seriously,
     and we should feel good about that.  That, and the fact that the
     attacks have gained no traction in the legitimate press."

Source: Korbitz Email to WJCIC Members 1/24/08

But Kraus was not content to simply live and let live. 

    "A larger problem than Charlie is that the rest of the press seems to
     be ignoring us."

    "Someone - maybe me - should also question the advice he is
     getting and even the mercenaries he's getting it from if he doesn't
     take the pledge.  Or something."

    "What we have to become is a beat for the political reporters."

Source: Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/6/08

Still Kraus saved his best gem for last when discussing the problems associated with labels like moderate or RINO:

    "Until and unless the true believers stop letting Charlie Sykes be the
     GOP's gatekeeper we're just going to have to live with this.  My only
     suggestion is that we drop the 'moderate' label and adopt the
     "libertarian" one to let Charlie and his followers know that we
     regard their faith and sex lives as private matters and expect them to

Source: Kraus Email to WJCIC Members 1/25/08



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