Is Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack naive? Or does she think we are?

In her Friday guest column she assured us that “if a candidate for judicial office were to accept a campaign contribution in exchange for the promise” of a favorable vote on the court later, “that is not a lawful contribution.”

Sorry, that’s just not any comfort. Recent Supreme Court election history has demonstrated that massive campaign contributions can trump reasoned debate.

What’s of more concern, Roggensack appears to believe the right to vote is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. She may be referring to Supreme Court rulings that have equated campaign contributions (not the right to vote) with speech and have awarded to corporations the free speech rights that are ensured for individuals under the First Amendment.

Roggensack thinks voters will have their votes “canceled” if justices are required to do what they should do anyway — recuse themselves from cases involving organizations that have made large contributions to their campaigns. This seems to concern her more than does the contrast between Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, for example, pouring millions of dollars into a Supreme Court race, and the inability of most private citizens to do that.

Roggensack is confused not only about the First Amendment, but about how and when people’s votes are being “canceled.”

— Norm Littlejohn, Madison

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