Almost a month ago, Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick started attacking his opponent for receiving donations from attorneys that are scheduled to have cases before the high court. At the time, I thought it odd that a Judge would make this kind of attack so central to his campaign. As a judge he likely took his share of contributions from local attorneys that ended up having cases before him. Shortly after Koschnick began making the argument, I took a look at his last available campaign finance documents which were from his original run for Judge in 1999. I identified at least six contributors in those documents that gave to him and later ended up having cases before him. Most of those contributors had cases before him only months after donating to his successful campaign for Jefferson County Judge. I blogged about this only days after Koschnick started using it as an attack and I have wondered why no one was confronting him with these facts. Finally, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has begun raising the issue and forcing Koschnick to try and square the big circle that he has made for himself.
It almost seemed like the weeks of zero scrutiny from the media made Koschnick more irresponsibly bold in this particular attack. In his last debate with the Chief Justice, he went as far as to say that he "just couldn't do it" and that he would recuse from a case if he received money from one of the lawyers in it. He went as far to say that a judge couldn't be fair in such a situation. If that is how he really feels then it naturally makes you wonder if he is admitting to being unfair in his own list of cases involving campaign donors. Today's report in the Journal Sentinel begins to address this issue and finally makes him answer for his convenient hypocrisy.
Koschnick's absolutist thinking began to crumble under just a little scrutiny as he quickly began to make exceptions for himself and his presiding over his donors cases. Suddenly he wants to qualify his earlier critiques with all sorts of new exceptions. He responded to the MJS reporter's questions with splitting hairs, which is a far cry from the hardcore image that he has tried to portray in the last several weeks. For example, he says that when he took the money that he was not yet a judge, yet he doesn't mention that only months after those contributions he was not only a judge but was a judge presiding over his donors cases. He also suddenly tries to make an exception based on the size of the donations, another big departure from the hardnosed approach that he has tried to use for weeks. Besides, you cannot realistically compare the contribution size in a local race to that of a statewide one. The best you can do is look at the percentages. The percentage of the contributions that Koschnick has been yelling about for weeks is only about 3 percent of his opponent's total. The percentage of contributions that he took from attorney's that ended up arguing before him was at the very least 4 to 5 times that!
Although it is good to see someone in the traditional media finally call Koschnick on his hypocrisy, there are even more questions that should be asked about this issue. Someone should more closely explore the cases that he had involving one lawyer in particular. In 1999 he accepted contributions from attorney Ronald W. Ziwisky and later presided over cases where this attorney was also listed as a plaintiff. Admittedly these cases came later in his time as a judge, but one must ask if the defendants in those cases still deserved to know about Koschnick's relationship with the plaintiff. Perhaps some crack reporter should go pull those court files and look for any rulings by Koschnick for the plaintiff and for any sign that he notified the defendants. I wonder how they would feel if they now found out about it?
The bottom line is that Randy Koschnick opportunistically used such an impossible standard for his opponent, while knowing that he himself couldn't keep it. Apparently he was hoping that the media would never call him on his inconsistency. Now that they are starting to ask questions, it seems like we are witnessing an interesting case of Koschnick vs. Koschnick.