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Wisconsin Weekly is a Friday news roundup of reports from Wisconsin Watch and other trusted news outlets. Access to some stories may be limited to subscribers of the news organizations that produced them. We urge our readers to consider supporting these important news outlets by subscribing, and sign up to get our free newsletters here

This week we highlight our coverage of the Wisconsin Supreme Court election — the most expensive judicial contest in U.S. history. Wisconsin Watch reporter Jacob Resneck reveals the wealthy donors who fueled the record-smashing spending. Liberal Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz won Tuesday’s election, besting conservative former Justice Daniel Kelly. That means the court’s ideological balance will shift 4-3 in favor of liberals, ending 15 years of conservative dominance on the high court. The impact extends far beyond Wisconsin, as the Supreme Court could handle disputes over the 2024 presidential election in this swingiest of swing states. 

On April 12, you’re invited to hear from Wisconsin Watch Statehouse Bureau Chief Matthew DeFour, reporters Matt Mencarini, Phoebe Petrovic and Jacob Resneck, and Managing Editor Dee J. Hall as we discuss the results of the April 4 election. The event, which includes a cash bar, runs 6-7 p.m. at Robinia Courtyard in Madison. Sign up here

Access to some stories listed in the Wisconsin Weekly roundup may be limited to subscribers of the news organizations that produced them. We urge our readers to consider supporting these important news outlets by subscribing. 

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Supreme Court Election
Wisconsin billionaire Diane Hendricks attends a forum at Beloit College on March 27, 2019. (Angela Major / The Janesville Gazette via AP)

Mega donors fuel record-shattering $45M Wisconsin Supreme Court race

Wisconsin Watch — April 1, 2023

Forty-one individual donors wrote Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s campaign checks for the statutory maximum of $20,000. Former Justice Daniel Kelly’s campaign received at least 21 such donations over the same period. The disparity between wealthy donors and contributions raised by working Wisconsinites doesn’t sit right with Donnell Shorter, head of a transit union that donated $18,000 to Protasiewicz. “I represent basically 1,600 people,” Shorter said. “Their voices won’t be heard as loudly as that one billionaire, that one celebrity.”

Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown is seen at the State of the State address of Gov. Tony Evers at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Jan. 22, 2019. (Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch)

Republicans can’t simply remove a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice

Wisconsin Watch — April 6, 2023

Democrats celebrated Tuesday’s election of Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, cementing a 4-3 liberal court majority. But another election result fanned speculation that Republicans could topple that new majority by impeaching Protasiewicz. A legislative effort to oust a justice would steer Wisconsin politics into nearly uncharted waters — and it wouldn’t be simple.

An American Principles Project PAC video ad highlights a lawsuit against the Eau Claire Area School District in which anonymous parents challenged administrative guidance for supporting transgender and gender non-conforming students. 

Anti-trans ads favoring Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Daniel Kelly peddle fear, false info

Wisconsin Watch — March 31, 2023

A Virginia-based group spread false information about transgender youth, school officials and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz to encourage voters to support her challenger Daniel Kelly in Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election. As of March 17, American Principles Project PAC had poured about $796,000 into advertisements and messaging supporting Kelly, the conservative former justice. The videos contain transphobia and disinformation, including broad claims that Protasiewicz and school officials are working to make children transgender.

Frank Wallitsch’s guardianship paperwork is photographed at his parents’ home in Mount Horeb, Wis. (Drake White-Bergey / Wisconsin Watch)

Why some Wisconsin residents with mental disabilities lose voting rights — and how they can restore them

Wisconsin Watch — April 3, 2023

Thousands of Wisconsinites have been “adjudicated incompetent” to vote under state laws designed to protect mentally incapacitated people from having someone else fill out their ballot. But Wisconsin lacks a statutorily defined system for tracking people ruled mentally incompetent to vote. That has led to instances of people casting ballots in recent elections despite being on the statewide ineligible voter list.

Related coverage from Wisconsin Watch: Dane County election review finds dozens of ineligible voters who cast ballots

Ken Koeppler is photographed on Nov. 29, 2021 in Madison, Wis. (Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Bill could help ‘innocent purchasers’ clean up contaminated Wisconsin land

Wisconsin Watch — April 5, 2023

Lawmakers from both parties in recent legislative sessions have pushed a bill that would help “innocent purchasers” pay to clean up contamination they did not cause. Previous attempts fell through, in large part due to lack of funding. This session, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has again introduced the same bill — this time with new potential funding options. Separately, Gov. Tony Evers is proposing in his 2023-25 state budget to offer even broader eligibility for funding to individuals who can show they thoroughly investigated potential contamination before buying a property. 

Earlier coverage from Wisconsin Watch: From ‘dream’ property to nightmare: Some Wisconsinites pay the price for pollution they didn’t cause


When college athletes take their own lives, healing the team becomes the next goal

Kaiser Health News — April 4, 2023

Until recently, it was relatively uncommon for student-athletes to die by suicide. But at least five NCAA athletes, including University of Wisconsin-Madison runner Sarah Shulze, ended their lives in a two-month period last year. And a 2021 NCAA poll released in May found that student-athletes say they are experiencing more mental health concerns, anxiety, and depression than they reported in surveys conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Access to some stories listed in the Wisconsin Weekly roundup may be limited to subscribers of the news organizations that produced them. We urge our readers to consider supporting these important news outlets by subscribing. 

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