Group With Ties to Madison Lobbyist Urges ‘Yes’ Vote On Chief Justice Referendum

March 30, 2015

A group - Vote Yes for Democracy - with ties to a longtime Madison lobbyist and Republican political consultant is sponsoring a radio ad urging voters to support a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s chief justice is chosen.

The proposed amendment, which is on the April 7 ballot along with numerous local races and a Wisconsin Supreme Court contest, would change the state’s constitution to allow a majority of the seven-member Supreme Court to pick their chief justice every two years. Currently, the state constitution designates the longest-serving justice on the court as the chief justice.

The 60-second radio ad tells listeners the current constitutional method for designating the chief justice is archaic and undemocratic. The ad is sponsored by Vote Yes for Democracy, a newly formed Madison-based group whose treasurer is listed as Brandon Scholz, co-founder of The Capitol Group lobbying firm, according to documents filed with the Government Accountability Board.

Scholz’s clients include the Wisconsin Grocers Association, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and the Wisconsin Propane Gas Association, among others.

The proposed constitutional amendment was approved by two successive sessions of the Republican-controlled legislature in order to go before the voters next week. The proposed amendment’s supporters say the high court should be able to pick its own leader, but critics contend the plan is a way for the court’s current 4-3 conservative majority to oust Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who is frequently labeled a liberal judge.