January 18th, 2021 Update
Loudenslager Formally Ends Campaign for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals After Failing to Obtain Ballot Access
ANTIGO – After failing to obtain the necessary number of valid signatures to be placed on the ballot for the spring 2021 election, Aaron Loudenslager today formally ended his candidacy for a judgeship on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals—District 3.
“At the end of the day, our grassroots campaign was not able to collect enough signatures to be placed on the ballot for the spring 2021 election,” said Loudenslager. “As a result, I formally terminated my campaign committee today.”
Candidates for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals were required to submit 1,000 valid signatures to the Wisconsin Elections Commission by January 5, 2021, to be placed on the spring 2021 ballot.
“Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic made traditional methods of collecting signatures—such as in-person collection at public events with large amounts of people in attendance—much more difficult to utilize during this particular campaign,” said Loudenslager. “To help alleviate this large obstacle to our collection efforts, our contingency plan was to utilize Facebook advertising to help facilitate signature collection.”
However, in October Facebook announced “plans to prohibit all political and issue-based advertising after the polls close on Nov. 3 for an undetermined length of time.” Then, after President Trump refused to concede the election to his opponent, Facebook announced a plan to “extend its ban on political ads in the [United States] for at least another month.” By mid-December, Facebook partially ended its ban on political advertising—but only lifted the ban with regard to “Georgia-specific political ads ahead of the Jan. 5 U.S. Senate and state runoffs.”
“Unfortunately, Facebook’s ban on political advertisements during December and early January could not have come at a worse time for our campaign,” said Loudenslager. “And because our campaign embraced the spirit of Wisconsin’s nonpartisan judiciary by rejecting assistance from partisan political parties and other outside interests, we were heavily relying on Facebook advertising to help our campaign communicate with voters efficiently on our limited campaign budget of $800.”
Loudenslager was the only candidate for this position with a formal campaign platform. Among other things, he promised to accept no outside funds to fund his campaign and impose an $800 limitation with regard to his own financial contributions to the campaign.
Furthermore, he promised to address the lack of adequate staffing throughout the Wisconsin court system—and to advocate for immediate implementation of the recommendations contained in the October 2001 report conducted by the National Center for State Courts about caseflow management in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, including the addition of more staff attorneys, law clerks and, with regard to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals—District 3, the report’s implicit recommendation for the addition of a new judgeship.
“Ultimately, Facebook’s refusal to lift its broad ban on political advertising capsized our grassroots effort to be placed on the spring 2021 ballot,” said Loudenslager. “And ironically, Facebook’s political advertising ban only served to help the other two candidates for this judicial position—both of whom unfortunately have recent and current ties to the politically connected and wealthy.”
The other two candidates for this position are Rick Cveykus, an attorney residing in Wausau, and Gregory B. Gill, Jr., a circuit court judge in Outagamie County.
Judge Gill, Jr., has received more than $80,000 in campaign contributions for his candidacy for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, according to the Wisconsin Law Journal. However, according to his campaign committee’s January continuing 2021 campaign finance report, much of these campaign contributions came from Judge Gill, Jr.’s close family, and affluent individuals with connections to corporate interests.
For instance, Judge Gill, Jr., appears to have received $25,000 in campaign contributions solely from himself and other close family members. Additionally, he has received large campaign contributions from corporate executives, such as John Menard, chief executive officer of Menard, Inc.; Wilson Jones, president of Oshkosh Corporation; and Richard Uihlein, chief executive of Uline Inc., who has been described as “one of the most powerful—and disruptive—GOP donors in the country.”
Furthermore, Judge Gill, Jr., also inexplicably received $1,000 in campaign contributions from his campaign committee’s own treasurer, Robert T. Kemps, who works as a consultant with The Savides Group—which offers financial services in Appleton through Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. Of course, Baird is well-known throughout the financial services industry for providing “wealth management, investment banking, institutional equities and research, asset management, and public finance services”—or, in other words, assisting the affluent further enlarge their wealth.
“When I first announced my candidacy for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, I said judicial campaigns in Wisconsin are too often dominated by monied interests,” said Loudenslager. “From what I can see so far, it looks like this judicial election will be no exception—to the detriment of the public-at-large.”
However, Judge Gill Jr. does not just have connections to wealthy individuals. He also has ongoing professional ties to a person harboring toxic and extremist right-wing political views.
In early December, Judge Gill, Jr.’s campaign hired a campaign manager, Landis Holdorf. According to Holdorf’s Twitter page shortly after being hired by Judge Gill, Jr., Holdorf publicly identified as a “paleocon”—short for “paleoconservative”—which is a particular brand of political conservatism associated with toxic nationalism.
Furthermore, more than one post on Holdorf’s Twitter page conveys public support of the fringe (and discredited) “stop the steal” conspiracy theory that has President Trump has repeatedly embraced over the past few months. This baseless conspiracy theory instigated the recent and unprecedented insurrection by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol. Apparently, none of Holdorf’s self-professed beliefs are concerning to Judge Gill, Jr., as he has paid $2,500 to Holdorf in “consulting fees”—and continues to employ Holdorf as his campaign manager.
“Judge Gill, Jr.’s conscious decision to continue having a professional relationship with Holdorf is an affront to Wisconsin’s long history of having a nonpartisan judiciary,” said Loudenslager. “As someone who has been a state court judge for nearly a decade, Judge Gill, Jr., should know that his continued professional association with Holdorf is abhorrent. Ultimately, though, this disturbing decision is a reflection of Judge Gill, Jr.’s true character—in contrast to the facade he projects to the public on his various social media pages.”
Meanwhile, two weeks ago Attorney Cveykus announced in a press release that he has received more than $50,000 in campaign contributions for his candidacy for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals—which he deemed a “significant achievement” for his campaign that “shows the deep and engaged support” his campaign has “built thus far.”
However, it appears Attorney Cveykus has overstated the amount of grassroots support his campaign currently has. According to his campaign committee’s January continuing 2021 campaign finance report that was filed on Friday, most of the campaign contributions his campaign received came directly from Attorney Cveykus himself, in the form of a $40,000 personal loan to his campaign committee.
“Unfortunately, this is just another stark illustration right now that Wisconsin’s dysfunctional court system largely serves the interests of the wealthy—and too often is inaccessible to everyday people,” said Loudenslager. “While Attorney Cveykus has thousands of dollars in expendable income to invest in his candidacy for judicial office, various media reports indicate that most American can’t even afford an unexpected $1,000 expense without outside assistance.”
In addition to his apparently large amount of wealth, Attorney Cveykus also has past and current ties to the politically connected. For example, he has “made $2,400 in contributions to candidates over the past 10 years,” some of which went to several Democratic candidates, according to the Wisconsin Law Journal.
More recently, Attorney Cveykus hired Nation Consulting, a political consulting firm “with ties to the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic Party,” to assist his campaign. He has paid $4,000 to the firm in consulting fees so far. Furthermore, Attorney Cveykus also inexplicably received $100 in campaign contributions from his campaign committee’s own treasurer, Alanna Conley, who just happens to serve as operations manager of Nation Consulting.
Nonetheless, Attorney Cveykus has promised “to help make [Wisconsin’s court] system work better” and “not just maintain the status quo.” However, he has notably failed to publicly advocate for the hiring of more support staff at the Wisconsin Court of Appeals necessary to having a functioning intermediate appellate court in Wisconsin.
“When Judge Gill, Jr., and Attorney Cveykus decide to engage in this type of conduct—while ignoring the significant understaffing of support staff in the Wisconsin court system they will be serving, including the Wisconsin Court of Appeals—it creates the appearance that political connections, wealth, and obtaining judicial positions are more important objectives, and more important values, to them than concretely helping the citizenry-at-large have a functioning judicial system,” said Loudenslager.
“Frankly, as someone who worked for the Wisconsin judiciary in a support role as both a judicial law clerk and a staff attorney for a majority of his career as a lawyer, I am embarrassed by these two judicial candidates’ behavior so far. I believe the people of Wisconsin deserve better. They need judicial candidates willing to respond to the problems people face on the ground—even if it entails a great risk of losing. Otherwise, Wisconsinites will become less engaged with the electoral process—and our state’s judicial system will continue to worsen for everyone involved.”
Although Loudenslager is disappointed in his campaign’s failure to obtain ballot access for the spring 2021 election, he remains committed to improving Wisconsin’s judicial system through other means.
“My goal in running for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals was not to become a judge for the sake of satisfying some personal ambition of mine. Rather, my purpose in running for this position was to improve people’s lives—and more specifically, by advocating for basic and necessary reforms to revamp Wisconsin’s deteriorating judicial system,” said Loudenslager. “And as I have in the past, such as when my persistent advocacy ended the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners’ (whose members are appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court) decade-long illegal discrimination against prospective lawyers who had a treated mental disorder, I will continue diligently working to improve people’s lives in a meaningful way.”
In Wisconsin, judicial campaigns are too often dominated by monied interests—and this has two disastrous effects on the public-at-large. First, it has the effect of filtering and distorting a judicial candidate’s merit, falsely equating money, fundraising wherewithal, and political connections with judicial acumen. Second, it likely has the effect of influencing a judicial candidate’s future decisions, whether unconsciously or not.
Unlike most judicial campaigns in Wisconsin, my campaign will explicitly remove the filtering and distorting influence of monied interests by accepting no outside funds—and I will impose an $800 limitation with regard to my own financial contributions to the campaign. Additionally, my campaign will not receive assistance from partisan political parties, nor will it associate itself with partisan political parties. Doing so will ensure that I will be an impartial judge who is not beholden to private or partisan interests.
Not only will my judicial campaign eschew outside contributions and affiliation with partisan political parties, I’m highly qualified for the position. Having spent the majority of my career as a lawyer working for the Wisconsin judiciary, I have the necessary experience, competence, and temperament to serve as a judge on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. And when combined with my internship at the Wisconsin Supreme Court, I have experience assisting judges and justices at all three state court levels in Wisconsin, providing me with indispensable knowledge about how the state court system as a whole operates that will inform the performance of my duties as a judge on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
Furthermore, I will advocate for more staffing and judicial resources at the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. As a report completed in 2001 indicates, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals is in significant need of more staffing and judicial resources. And while monied interests have targeted judicial campaigns in Wisconsin with lavish campaign contributions and independent expenditures, the state’s criminal justice system continues to deteriorate, with a lack of adequate funding for both prosecutors and public defenders—not to mention the state court system as a whole.