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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (left) attacked former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's involvement in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race that has Democrats hoping for a "blue wave" of wins in future elections. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (left) attacked former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's involvement in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race that has Democrats hoping for a "blue wave" of wins in future elections.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (left) attacked former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's involvement in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race that has Democrats hoping for a "blue wave" of wins in future elections.

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher April 11, 2018

Scott Walker claim of Eric Holder making Supreme Court race 'highly partisan' ignores GOP role

Is Barack Obama’s attorney general, a possible candidate for president, to blame for making a pivotal Wisconsin Supreme Court campaign "highly partisan"?

Republican Gov. Scott Walker raised the issue six days after Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet, who was backed by liberals, won election to the high court.

Her win in the officially nonpartisan race raised hopes among Democrats of a "blue wave" of election victories, including denying Walker a third term in November 2018.

Walker was interviewed April 9, 2018 by Jay Weber, a conservative talk show host on WISN-AM in Milwaukee. Referring to Dallet’s defeat of Michael Screnock, a Sauk County circuit judge backed by Walker and other conservatives, Walker said:

Even Tuesday's election for the Supreme Court -- which, in the end, kind of boiled down to a ballot test between parties, even though it's supposedly nonpartisan, and that's really because Eric Holder and his group came in and made it highly partisan.

Wisconsin Supreme Court races have seen partisan involvement in recent years, but the 2018 race set a new standard for partisanship.

Let’s see if it was Holder -- the attorney general for most of Obama’s presidency, who is considering a run for president himself in 2020 -- who made the Supreme Court race "highly partisan."

Holder’s involvement

On March 15 and 16, 2018, Holder campaigned for Dallet in Milwaukee and Madison.

At the time, he said the group he leads, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, was spending $140,000 on digital ads backing Dallet and that it might spend more. Later in the campaign, it was reported that Holder’s committee had spent a total of $165,000 to support Dallet.

But on election night, the group said that it and its affiliates had "invested more than $500,000" to elect Dallet.

(Note: In February 2018, Holder’s committee sued Walker over his refusal to call special elections to fill two open legislative seats. The suit successfully forced Walker to call the elections.)

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So, Holder himself and his group played a major role in backing Dallet.

And it’s true that as national figures, Holder and his group added a national partisan dimension to the race.

But the Wisconsin Republican Party played a major role in backing Screnock, starting before Holder did, and it doesn’t get much more partisan than a political party.

First in -- the GOP

Months before Holder’s involvement, Republican Party groups in Wisconsin started backing Screnock.

For example, on Nov. 9, 2017, five months before election day, the Washington County Republican Party in suburban Milwaukee gave $500 to Screnock’s campaign. Later, other county parties, including those in Racine, Polk, Ozaukee, Sheboygan and Walworth counties, gave to Screnock’s campaign.

On Feb. 8, 2018, the state GOP gave Screnock’s campaign a $31,152 in-kind donation. And five days later, Screnock’s campaign reported having received nearly $111,000 more from the GOP.

On March 27, 2018, the state party announced a statewide radio, direct mail, digital, and billboard advertisement campaign attacking Dallet.

In all, Screnock’s campaign received about $400,000 in help from the state and local Republican parties, the Associated Press reported.

Our rating

Walker says "Holder and his group came in and made" the Wisconsin Supreme Court race "highly partisan."

Holder came to Wisconsin in March 2018, a few weeks before election day, to campaign for Dallet. And a group he leads said it and its affiliates spent more than $500,000 backing Dallet. That added a national partisan dimension to the campaign.

But you can’t get any more partisan than a political party, and county Republican Party groups started backing Screnock months earlier, in November 2017. Ultimately, Republican Party groups, led by the state party, backed Screnock to the tune of some $400,000.

For a statement that contains only some truth, we give Walker a Mostly False.

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Mostly False
Says "Eric Holder and his group came in and made" the Wisconsin Supreme Court race "highly partisan."
In an interview
Monday, April 9, 2018

Our Sources

iHeart.com, Jay Weber interview of Scott Walker (4:50), April 9, 2018

Email, Scott Walker campaign spokesman Austin Altenburg, April 10, 2018

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Eric Holder campaigns for Rebecca Dallet as GOP questions her ability to hear controversial cases on Wisconsin Supreme Court," March 15, 2018

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Michael Screnock gets $30,000 from Republicans," Feb. 12, 2018

Associated Press, "A Boon for Democrats as Liberal Wins Wisconsin Supreme Court Race," April 4, 2018

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Michael Screnock gets $142,000 from GOP in five weeks," Feb. 13, 2018

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, news release, March 30, 2018

Wisconsin Republican Party, news release, March 27, 2018

Wisconsin Election Commission, Michael Screnock campaign finance report, January 2018

Wisconsin Election Commission, Michael Screnock campaign finance report, March 26, 2018

Wisconsin Election Commission, Michael Screnock campaign finance report, March 23, 2018

National Democratic Redistricting Committee, news release, April 3, 2018

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Scott Walker claim of Eric Holder making Supreme Court race 'highly partisan' ignores GOP role

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