Reality Check: Attack Ads In Supreme Court Race

Cases Before Ziegler At Issue In Ads

Published On: Mar 20 2007 09:42:35 AM CDT   Updated On: Mar 20 2007 09:45:08 AM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

With the spring election nearing, political ads in the race for Wisconsin's Supreme Court have launched sharper attacks.

VIDEO: Watch The Report

WISC-TV political reporter Colin Benedict put two recent ads through a "Reality Check."

At issue in the ads are cases in front of Washington County Judge Annette Ziegler. Ziegler and her opponent attorney Linda Clifford have very different views on how Ziegler conducted herself.

An ad for Clifford begins: "Newspapers have broken the story. A scandal involving Judge Annette Ziegler's conflicts of interest."

Meanwhile, a recent Ziegler ad begins with: "The choice is as clear as night and day. Linda Clifford's charges aren't true. There is no scandal."

Clifford launched the first ad, playing off of media reports.

"Ziegler broke the rules and failed to remove herself from 46 cases involving her family's banking connections," said the Clifford ad.

A WISC-TV analysis found that this claim "needs clarification."

The cases in question involve West Bend Savings Bank and are mostly small claims.

Ziegler's husband, J.J. Ziegler, is on the board of directors. Annette Ziegler did fail to disclose or recuse herself from dozens of cases involving West Bend Savings Bank, an apparent violation of state judicial rules.

It's worth noting, however, that so far no one has sanctioned Ziegler for her conduct. But a formal complaint is currently before the Wisconsin Judicial Commission.

Ziegler said her husband's position didn't effect her judgment, and she further defends herself in her own TV ad.

"Judge Ziegler's family has never benefited from any case," the ad says.

WISC-TV found that claim "needs clarification."

Ziegler's husband is a paid member of the Board of West Bend Savings, but it is a mutual bank, meaning that deposit holders own the company.

Ziegler's campaign spokesman told the Wisconsin State Journal that J.J. Zeigler's salary isn't tied to bank performance.

Both candidate ads then move on to Clifford's qualifications. Ziegler makes it clear that Clifford isn't a judge.

Ziegler's ad says: "Linda Clifford, not one day as a judge. Judge Ziegler, a former prosecutor, is endorsed by a majority of sheriffs and district attorneys. Linda Clifford has never been a criminal prosecutor."

It's "true" that Clifford has never been a judge nor a criminal prosecutor. But she has prosecuted civil cases as an assistant attorney general, which she notes in her ad.

"Thirty years of legal experience. Linda is the only candidate that has argued a case in front of the Supreme Court," the Clifford ad says.

WISC-TV also found that claim to be "true."