Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz should apologize to Dan Kelly after it was revealed that her campaign viciously mocked her opponent with horses planted in campaign commercials. Instead, she’s arrogantly refusing to comment.
Frankly, she is not fit to be a state Supreme Court justice, and this vulgar behavior and non-response is but the latest example of that. Wisconsin deserves a Supreme Court justice with decorum. We don’t say this lightly, but there is mounting evidence that Protasiewicz is a terrible human being. And Wisconsinites do not deserve to have terrible people on their state’s highest court.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported that Protasiewicz’s former campaign manager, Alejandro Verdin, revealed on a liberal podcast that the campaign planted horses in its ads. The Protasiewicz campaign decided to “hide horse figurines and feature neighing in ads as an apparent subliminal reference to baseless inside jokes about her opponent fornicating with horses.”
The campaign manager also said the horses were planted in the ads because they believed conservative former Justice Dan Kelly looked like a “horse *ucker.” Another ad made fun of Kelly for having described his father as a cowboy and included a horse neighing. The AP found horses in at least three Protasiewicz ads.
You can hear them discussing it here:
“This goes a long way towards explaining why Janet Protasiewicz’s campaign was so dishonest, undignified and lacking in respect for the office of Supreme Court justice,” Kelly told MJS.
The vulgar, ugly, juvenile, and frankly unethical behavior is an embarrassment to the court. Yet, when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked Protasiewicz about it, she did not even bother to comment! The Wisconsin Judicial Code of Ethics says that Wisconsin judges “shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s activities” and judges “shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”
The ads were developed by Ben Nuckels, who crafted Protasiewicz’s media strategy and previously did the same for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Nuckels’ website quotes Evers as saying, “Ben Nuckels knows how to reach voters with messages and creative ads that cut through the noise. I wouldn’t have won my re-election – or my first – without his creativity and skilled advice.”
Say what you want about Protasiewicz’s opponent, Dan Kelly, who cost conservatives two Supreme Court seats, but he was always studiously focused on decorum, sometimes to his campaign’s detriment.
The report, by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, revealed a series of extremely juvenile actions by the Protasiewicz’s campaign. The buck stops with her, whether she knew about it or not. It was her campaign. She needs to own this and apologize.
Instead, she’s dodging questions, which also shows a lack of integrity. “A Protasiewicz campaign spokesperson said Tuesday that Verdin and Nuckels had no comment. State Supreme Court spokesperson Stephen Kelley said he would ask Protasiewicz if she has any comment. He did not immediately respond to a follow-up email,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported, referring to campaign officials Alejandro Verdin and Ben Nuckels.
Protasiewicz dodged questions from the AP too, which reported, “A Protasiewicz campaign spokesperson declined comment Tuesday, adding that Verdin and Nuckels would have no comment, either. Asked for comment from Protasiewicz herself, her Supreme Court law clerk Ryan Birschbach referred questions to the campaign.”
This is not acceptable. It was her campaign. It shows astonishing arrogance to not comment.
The Daily Beast said the Protasiewicz campaign worker who put the horses in ads was Nuckels, “a media consultant for Protasiewicz’s campaign.” According to Daily Beast, the vulgar gag started after a person in a focus group said that Kelly “looks like a horse-f*****.”
“I get angry when there’s someone like a Janet Protasiewicz out there lying about me and trying to trash my father’s legacy. That makes me furious. But it’s because my dad taught me the value of character in a person, and he told me that your name is everything. And I believe him. That was a good lesson to leave, and I’ve lived my life according to that lesson ever since,” he said.
Protasiewicz ran for the Supreme Court on the supposed basis of her “values,” which really appeared to be her taking positions on political issues that were likely to come before the court.
Republicans have asked for her to recuse herself in the ongoing redistricting map case because she took $10 million from the state Democratic Party, stated she believes the Republican maps are rigged, and then voted to find them unconstitutional using a flimsy and hypocritical test that reversed previous position on a nothing-issue, municipal islands. She also gave her position on abortion.
“Both moves were highly unusual; typically judicial candidates refrain from revealing their stances to avoid the appearance of bias,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Meanwhile, Protasiewicz was accused during the campaign by two named people, including a self-described liberal former restaurant owner, of using a racial slur to refer to black parents in Children’s Court when she was a prosecutor. She was also accused of elder abuse against her former husband. And then there was the case in which, as a prosecutor, she attempted to take two black twins from their grandmother partly because the woman could not afford a bigger house, court records show.
Protasiewicz is not fit to sit on the state’s highest court. She never was, but this proves it, and she should apologize to former Justice Kelly and his family immediately.