Imposter electors are tied to high-profile Republicans in Wisconsin

When Sen. Chris Larson and Rep. Jonathan Brostoff asked the Milwaukee County district attorney to investigate the 10 fake electors who sent documents to Congress falsely certifying the votes of Wisconsinites went to Donald Trump, the pair of Milwaukee legislators also began looking into who reserved the room in the Capitol where the fake electors met to put their signatures on those documents.

Potential charges against the group of “imposter” electors include forgery, falsely acting as public officers, misconduct in public office and conspiracy to commit criminal acts — as well as potential violations of federal law, according to attorney Jeff Mandell of Law Forward, the nonprofit firm that first called for an investigation into the fake electors last February.

Larson and Brostoff assert that whoever reserved the room for the Republicans may be complicit in what they deem a likely crime. Through an open records request Larson received evidence that it was then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald who reserved the room. Fitzgerald was elected to Congress in the same election whose results he helped challenge.

“The Congressman owes it to his constituents and the American people at large to condemn the actions of the fraudulent GOP electors. Failing to do so is an admission that he supports their attempt to overthrow the legitimate election of President Biden, including Wisconsin, which Biden won by nearly 21,000 votes,” wrote Larson in a statement. “As lawmakers, we have a special responsibility to respect the outcome of our elections, and by seemingly assisting those who would undermine that process, Congressman Fitzgerald will have committed acts that betray the oath he swore when he took office.”

Fitzgerald was sworn in on Jan. 3 and among his first acts as a newly minted congressman was to vote against certifying the election for Biden on Jan. 6. That came after the deadly attack by insurgents who invaded and trashed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to subvert democracy and the peaceful transition of power. Fitzgerald could not be reached for comment — nor has he made a public statement on the matter.

Brostoff believes Fitzgerald knowingly aided Wisconsin’s fake electors in an effort to subvert the results of the presidential contest. “It seems extremely unlikely that any of this is a coincidence,” he says, and adds that given his oaths of office on both the state and federal level to protect the Constitution, “Fitzgerald needs to be held accountable and should immediately resign. I’m hopeful that justice will be done and I’ll keep pushing for it.”

According to Larson’s statement, “The records received from the office of the State Senate Sergeant at Arms indicate that staff from then-Senator Fitzgerald’s office reserved meeting space from 10:00am to 2:00pm in the Senate Parlor and Room 201SE on behalf of the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW).” The Capitol was closed to the public due to COVID-19, “but legislators were able to reserve meeting space for constituents and other interested groups as they saw fit,” he wrote.

“All indications are that Congressman Fitzgerald saw fit to provide space in the Capitol for a slate of 10 Republicans purporting to be the authorized presidential electors from Wisconsin to meet and produce fraudulent documents claiming (falsely) that the 2020 Election in Wisconsin was won by Donald Trump,” his statement said.

Larson discussed the open record documents he secured with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and told her, “It is something that did not just get plotted that very day. It is something that spanned across seven states … and in the case of Sen. Fitzgerald it was something he had a role in the very beginning of it by opening up a room.” Larson is referencing documents secured by American Oversight that revealed that seven states submitted false documents, although two states — not Wisconsin — added language saying the documents were to be used in case something further was discovered about the results.

Maddow, interviewing Larson on his revelation, parodied comments from staff in the Sargent’s Office who stated, in reviewing the request, that there was a lot going on in the Capitol on Dec. 14. “Yeah there was real work happening in the Capitol that day,” said Maddow, showing a picture of the Democratic electors in Gov. Tony Evers’ office. “Are we too busy to squeeze in a crime here? Do we have the nice room we could give them for that?”

The 10 who falsely claimed Trump had won Wisconsin’s votes were Carol Brunner, Edward Scott Grabins, Bill Feehan, Robert F. Spindell, Jr., Kathy Kiernan, Darryl Carlson, Pam Travis, Kelly Ruh, Andrew Hitt and Mary Buestrin.

Most of the 10 hold positions within the Republican Party, including Andrew Hitt who is the former party chair. Bob Spindell sits on the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Most of the rest serve as Republican Party leaders of county or congressional-district parties. And a number of them are involved in the campaigns of Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and attorney general candidate Adam Jarchow.

Jarchow told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he would not investigate the matter if elected.

According to the progressive policy and advocacy group A Better Wisconsin Together, of the 10 imposter electors, four have ties to Kleefisch, as donors or advisors. The group lists:

  • Bill Feehan, named to the Kleefisch gubernatorial campaign grassroots leadership board;
  • Mary Buestrin, a member of the advisory board of the 1848 Project political organization established by Kleefisch and overseen by her before announcing her run for governor;
  • Kelly Ruh, an original member of the advisory board of Kleefisch’s 1848 Project; and
  • Andrew Hitt, former head of the Republican Party of Wisconsin and a Kleefisch donor, including $2,000 to her gubernatorial campaign in December 2021.

“As far as Kleefisch and Jarchow are concerned, it should be an obvious disqualifier from office, point blank, period,” responds Brostoff. “Not only does it bring into question her judgment as to who she is surrounding herself with, if you are going to have someone who has made democracy their enemy a heartbeat away … someone who’s got the ear of the governor. Having multiple people like that close to the governor is dangerous, scary and wholly inappropriate for her.”

He adds that Jarchow announcing he would not prosecute sent the message he’d protect his friends, “Given who’s working on his campaign I found that to be grossly inappropriate.”


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Milwaukee prosecutor suggests state and federal DOJ investigate fake GOP electors

The Milwaukee District Attorney’s office has referred a request for criminal action against 10 Wisconsin Republicans to the state Department of Justice.

Jeff Mandell, an attorney with Law Forward, revealed the news during a national press briefing with pro-democracy groups on Thursday. Mandell last February had sent a criminal referral asking the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office to investigate the 10 Republican “fraudulent electors who met here and tried to hijack Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes,” by certifying that Donald Trump had won the 2020 presidential election and submitting those documents to Congress.

Recently the situation has received heightened attention, sparked by a column by Mandell in the Examiner and an open records request by American Oversight, which was given the documents and shared them publicly.

Mandell said he received a letter in response from Assistant District Attorney Matthew Westphal on Wednesday. In the letter, Westphal said that his office consulted with the state Department of Justice “to discuss these matters” and offered to provide “any necessary assistance to the extent able,” but suggested that due to jurisdictional issues and the situation involving a federal election, the case needed to move up the ladder.

“Your request for investigation alleges behaviors relating to the statewide results of a presidential election and alleges actors residing across the State,” wrote Westphal to Mandell. “As such, these actions would be more appropriately addressed by an agency that maintains jurisdiction across county lines.”

He added that “similar allegations of false electors and false elections certifications have been raises [sic] across the United States, including the states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. At least two of those states have already referred their matters to the United States Department of Justice.”

Last Friday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul addressed the situation, telling the Examiner, “I believe it’s critical that the federal government fully investigates and prosecutes any unlawful actions in furtherance of any seditious conspiracy.”

During the briefing hosted by States United Democracy Center, Mandell said he received evidence this week that the 10 GOP electors who certified a win for Trump did so fully aware that Trump did not win.

“Now, some of the fraudulent electors have said that maybe they didn’t know that all of the [legal] cases were done. And so I’d like to break a little bit of news about this,” said Mandell, “which is that I now have a copy of the envelopes that they used to send those documents in to the federal government. This was not part of the original document FOIA requests that American Oversight got.” Mandell said the envelope and its tracking information prove the documents were put in the mail after it was clear who won the election in Wisconsin.

The fake electors met on Dec. 14, the same day the real state electors were meeting to certify the Wisconsin votes for Joe Biden.

“So not only did they do this on the 14th, but then they had two full more days of news and information before they made a deliberate decision to submit those documents,” added Mandell.

Drop box appeal

Also on Thursday, Law Forward filed an appeal in the case where a Waukesha County judge ruled that using drop boxes to return absentee ballots is antithetical to Wisconsin statutes. Law Forward lawyers will be back in court on Friday seeking an emergency stay given that there are elections in the state in less than four weeks.

“This is a distortion of the law and yet they have found one circuit court judge here in Wisconsin who is willing to say that it’s correct,” Mandell said. “On the eve of the election, they want to change the rules and make it harder for people to vote.”

Mandell said it’s important that people realize it’s not just drop boxes being banned by the judge.

“I want to be more clear because I think a lot of people are talking about it just as drop boxes, but it also challenges the method of ballot return,” said Mandell. “What the court determined is … also that no one except for the voter, the United States Postal Service and the municipal clerk can touch an absentee ballot.”

He said that if the ruling stood, it would result in it becoming ridiculously easy to be arrested for voter fraud.

“That means that if I fully completed my absentee ballot, signed it, sealed it, intend to put it in the mail and on the way out of the house I forget and leave it on the kitchen table and I text my wife and ask her to put it in the mailbox, the judge believes that my wife and I have both committed voter fraud,” said Mandell.

“That is absurd. It is preposterous. It is not supported by Wisconsin statute or practice.”

He filed in the District 4 Court of Appeals in Madison, choosing the appellate venue. The ruling, he asserts is not only wrong, but “the United States Supreme Court has held quite clearly and repeatedly over the last few years but they do not want to see election rules changed on the eve of an election because it causes voter confusion and disenfranchisement. They say that the Constitution prohibits that.”

More Gableman subpoenas

In a separate action, Law Forward attorneys responded Wednesday to two more subpoenas from Michael Gableman, one for the City of Green Bay and its officials, including Mayor Eric Genrich. Gableman is the former Supreme Court justice that Speaker Robin Vos hired to investigate the 2020 presidential election.

They will be back in court Friday, Mandell said, “because Mr. Gableman is trying to have the mayor of Green Bay thrown in jail for not attending a faux deposition.” He added, “Mr. Gableman does not have the authority to take this action under the law, and that he never actually asked anyone to show up at.” Green Bay has been the focus of Republican ire because of grants and Election Day help it received from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, partially funded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

And while Mandell’s colleagues at Law Forward spent Wednesday arguing about gerrymandered redistricting maps before the Wisconsin Supreme Court — another example, he said, of actions antithetical to democracy — Mandell filed a new lawsuit on behalf of Voces de la Frontera Action, a Latino community group, which also received a subpoena from Gableman’s expanded review.

“Mr. Gableman is seeking to uncover all of the communications activities and financial contributions Voces de la Frontera Action used in its completely legal activities around the election,” said Mandell. “This is a violation. This is an attempt to chill constitutionally protected conduct and speech and it cannot stand.”


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Will false Trump electors’ attempt to hijack the Georgia vote be punished?

The 16 Georgia Republicans who assembled at noon on Dec. 14, 2020, in the state Capitol and falsely certified that Donald Trump had won the state’s electoral votes were not the nation’s only bogus electors. They made up just one of seven groups falsely claiming Trump was the victor in states where the majority of voters chose Joe Biden for president and Kamala Harris for vice president.

The six other states — Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin— joined Georgia in submitting documents to Congress certifying falsely that the majority of votes — and therefore the Electoral College votes — went to Trump.

The documents, all filed by Republicans for Trump, were brought to light through a Freedom of Information Act request by the D.C.-based watchdog group American Oversight, which requested all 2020 certificates of electoral votes that were not already published as the 2020 Electoral College Results.

“Looking at the certificates, there were striking similarities in the language and the formatting between many of them that … points to this not being an original idea,” says Clark Pettig, spokesperson for American Oversight. “These certificates matter because they show in black and white just how far allies of the former president were prepared to go to subvert our democracy. It’s shocking to see it there on the page.”

American Oversight submitted the FOIA records request because there were reports that within the White House, Trump campaign or Republican National Committee, a coordinated effort was being mounted to submit bogus slates of electors. Since the group received those documents, a memo was made public by The Washington Post that came from Trump’s lawyer John Eastman outlining a six-step scheme to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the 2020 election results on Jan. 6 and give Trump a second term.

That memo relies on these falsified documents — including the one from Wisconsin — to throw the election to Trump.

“When [Pence] gets to Arizona, he announces that he has multiple slates of electors, and so is going to defer decision on that until finishing the other States,” wrote Eastman. “At the end, he announces that because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States. That means the total number of “electors appointed” —the language of the 12th Amendment—s 454…. A “majority of the electors appointed” would therefore be 228. There are at this point 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden. Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected.”

Two of the seven states included caveats. In New Mexico the wording was slightly altered to be less brazen stating that the documents were being submitted, “on the understanding that it might later be determined that we are the duly elected and qualified Electors…” Pennsylvania Republicans used similarly contingent language.

In Georgia and the four other states, the signatures appeared on the document proclaiming, “We the undersigned, being the duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from the State of Georgia do hereby certify the following…”

But none of the seven certificates indicated that the signatories listed were an illegitimate slate of electors, not chosen by those states’ voters.

In Georgia, the 16 signatories were Joseph Brannan, James “Ken” Carroll, Vikki Townsend Consiglio, Carolyn Hall Fisher, state Sen. Burt jones – now a candidate for Georgia lieutenant governor, Gloria Kay Godwin, David G. Hanna, Mark W. Hennessy, Mark Amick, John Downey, Cathleen Alston Latham, Daryl Moody, Brad Carver, Georgia GOP Chair David Shafer, Shawn Still and C.B. Yadav.

Pettig says the “phony electors” need to be viewed as one part of a broader attempt to subvert or overturn elections. Other efforts he cites include planting broad distrust in election results, as many Georgia Republican legislators have done.

“I think what we are seeing here on multiple levels, on multiple fronts is a broad effort by the former president and his allies to overturn the election by whatever means possible,” Pettig concludes.

Wisconsin pushback

Wisconsin may be the only state where there is attention being drawn to the falsified documents and the people that signed them, because here Law Forward attorneys Mel Barnes and Jeff Mandell filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission nearly a year ago regarding what they deemed “fraudulent electors.” The day after filing the complaint, Barnes, and earlier this month Mandell, also authored columns on the topic for the Examiner.

Much to Mandell’s surprise the issue has received little attention despite the gravity of its implications for future elections and for democracy. Why does it matter that so many Republicans sat around and cosplayed electors after challenges to the results through multiple court cases, investigations, recounts and audits had not overturned Biden’s win?

Mandell has a lot to say in response to that question.

“There’s no harm in people who are engaged in politics, and who care passionately about public policy, sitting around and being upset that they lost an election or planning how they’re going to win the next one,” he says. “That’s very different from trying to defraud the 3.3 million people in Wisconsin who voted of the value of their votes by trying to convince Congress to credit Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes and Wisconsin’s role in choosing the president of the United States to the candidate who lost.

“Being a presidential elector is not some toy or prize at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks. It is serving as a public official and as an esteemed representative of everyone who voted in Wisconsin.

“And so for these people to try to steal that and try to impersonate that when they didn’t have the right because Wisconsinites chose a different candidate — that’s really, really dangerous and undermines our democracy.”

On Feb. 15, 2021, Law Forward, acting on behalf of its clients, including SEIU and several individuals, sent a letter to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The letter laid out the areas of Wisconsin criminal law the attorneys believe were violated, including forgery, falsely assuming to act as a public officer, misconduct in office and “likely engaging in conspiracy to commit criminal acts.”

Mandell says he cannot prove coordination with Trump allies in the other states, but he adds that looking at the similarities between the bogus documents, “It’s difficult for me to believe … that all of this happened organically in five different states and nobody communicated with each other and nobody had legal advice in common. But we don’t really know.”

The Law Forward letter also states, “Should your office conclude that the fraudulent electors did not accomplish the unlawful goals of their actions, charges may be appropriate against them under Wis. Stat. § 939.32, for attempts to commit a felony or other crime.”

Mandell stresses that Trump’s phony electors only gathered after legal recourse had been exhausted in court cases and recounts that were not resolved in their favor. “There was no dispute left,” he says. “This was purely malicious and fraudulent.”

Today, nearly one year later, there has been no resolution or response to their complaint.

On Nov. 3, 2021 the Elections Commission went into closed session to discuss the matter. The Wisconsin Elections Commission ran into trouble because one of the 10 false electors — Bob Spindell — is a commission member. Mandell asked that Spindell be recused from deliberations as he should not be allowed to act as his own judge, “a pretty fundamental principle of jurisprudence.”

Mandell followed up with a letter to the state Department of Justice after Spindell did not respond in the time period allotted, then later pushed to be in on the WEC meetings where his actions, along with the other nine false electors, were discussed and acted upon. He says DOJ assured him Spindell could not defend his actions in closed session where Law Forward would not be present to respond.

That communication came in Nov. 2021 — and that was the last Mandell heard on the complaint.

Department of Justice spokesperson Gillian Drummond says she can only confirm that “DOJ assistant attorneys general are acting as outside counsel assisting the Wisconsin Elections Commission on this matter,” and could not provide any further update.

At a Nov. 3 WEC meeting that was scheduled to go immediately into closed session on this topic, Spindell complained about being excluded and launched into a defense of his actions as the chair attempted to move into closed session.

He complained at length about “the attempt to disqualify me — an outspoken Republican commission member — from participating in what Law Forward [states] about the so-called fraudulent president electors.”

Then he appeared to blame the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the Trump campaign for his own actions. His statement also appeared to back up the attorneys’ conclusion that it was a coordinated effort across a number of states.

“As an elector I only performed ministerial duties for the Republican Party of Wisconsin and Trump campaign,” fumed Spindell. “I sat there and signed papers as they were passed from person to person. [It was my] first time as an elector that I participated in this function of signing documents.” He added that he was told it was mandatory and necessary according to the Trump and RPW legal opinions in order to preserve Trump’s legal position.

Hawaii 1960

There has been a situation in which two slates of state electors submitted certifications. It took place in Hawaii in 1960. Mandell highlights this — and cites news photos of the event he found — because he believes it shows how things should be handled in “a bonafide, good-faith dispute,” were there ever any question of who was the legitimate victor in a state.

“They did things very, very differently than the fraudulent electors did here in Wisconsin,” he points out. “And I think that’s incredibly important.” He describes a ceremonial room where both slates of electors were present and met in front of the media and public with cameras recording the event. The governor welcomed both sides. “They did it in the light of day and everybody knew exactly what was happening,” he says. “They submitted both sets to Congress.”

Not so in this state in 2020. “Out here in Wisconsin, these people were skulking in the shadows and … there was not, at that point, further bonafide dispute about the outcomes of Wisconsin’s election.”

The situation of fraudulent electors was given some attention last week by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and Politico, which only included Michigan and Arizona submissions. In Wisconsin, Rep. Jonathan Brostoff and Sen. Chris Larson, both Democrats from Milwaukee, sent a letter to Chisholm calling on him to investigate the situation and take action to “prosecute sedition.”

Brostoff says he was motivated to draw attention to the situation because he didn’t see the state holding fake electors accountable. He also sees what Republicans are doing to discredit the election, as well as authoring bills to make it harder to vote, as a “bait and switch.”

“The perpetrator is trying to get away with something by blaming others,” says Brostoff, expressing frustration that more than a year has passed with no action. “We cannot accept this as normal, responsible behavior, [especially] from people in positions like that. Regardless of how powerful they think they are, no one’s above the law. … We cannot move forward until this is resolved. We have to get to a point where we are building back trust.”

Mandell hopes to see a written report and recommendations soon, but says if the Elections Commission and DOJ are not responsive, the next step is taking the case to Dane County Circuit Court.

“There is a point at which adjudication delayed is adjudication denied,” says Mandell.

He also believes that given the actions from seven states, there may be a need for a national body such as Congress’ Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack to become involved.

And American Oversight — which conducted a deposition with Vos concerning records tied to his election investigation — plans to continue to push to hold the fake electors accountable.

Pettig says that the people attempting to subvert and overturn elections and make it more difficult to vote aren’t stopping those efforts — so American Oversight doesn’t plan to stop either.

“We’ve been actively investigating the people and networks behind the attempt to overturn the election and then, also, the subsequent attempts to cast doubt on the results through partisan election investigations in different states,” he says.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the attempt to overturn the election, who was involved, and if we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, we need to know the facts,” he says. “So we have continued investigating the bogus election audits in Arizona, the partisan investigation going on in Wisconsin now and other efforts to raise false claims of voter fraud as a pretext for enacting new voting restrictions.”

“I think it’s clear that the people behind the election challenges haven’t stopped,” Pettig adds, “So we are going to continue investigating.”

Georgia Recorder Editor John McCosh contributed to this report.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

Will false Trump electors' attempt to hijack the Wisconsin vote be punished?

The 10 Wisconsin Republicans who assembled on Dec. 14, 2020 at noon in the state Capitol and falsely certified that Donald Trump had won the state’s electoral votes were not the nation’s only bogus electors. They made up just one of seven groups falsely claiming Trump was the victor in states where the majority of voters chose Joe Biden for president and Kamala Harris for vice president.

The six other states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania — joined Wisconsin in submitting documents to Congress certifying falsely that the majority of votes — and therefore the Electoral College votes — went to Trump.

The documents, all filed by Republicans for Trump, were brought to light through a Freedom of Information Act request by the D.C.-based watchdog group American Oversight, which requested all 2020 certificates of electoral votes that were not already published as the 2020 Electoral College Results.

“Looking at the certificates, there were striking similarities in the language and the formatting between many of them that … points to this not being an original idea,” says Clark Pettig, spokesperson for American Oversight. “These certificates matter because they show in black and white just how far allies of the former president were prepared to go to subvert our democracy. It’s shocking to see it there on the page.”

American Oversight submitted the FOIA records request because there were reports that within the White House, Trump campaign or Republican National Committee, a coordinated effort was being mounted to submit bogus slates of electors. Since the group received those documents, a memo was made public by The Washington Post that came from Trump’s lawyer John Eastman outlining a six-step scheme to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the 2020 election results on Jan. 6 and give Trump a second term.

That memo relies on these falsified documents — including the one from Wisconsin — to throw the election to Trump.

“When [Pence] gets to Arizona, he announces that he has multiple slates of electors, and so is going to defer decision on that until finishing the other States,” wrote Eastman. “At the end, he announces that because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States. That means the total number of “electors appointed” —the language of the 12th Amendment—s 454…. A “majority of the electors appointed” would therefore be 228. There are at this point 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden. Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected.”

Two of the seven states included caveats. In New Mexico the wording was slightly altered to be less brazen stating that the documents were being submitted, “on the understanding that it might later be determined that we are the duly elected and qualified Electors…” Pennsylvania Republicans used similarly contingent language.

In Wisconsin and the four other states, the signatures appeared on the document proclaiming, “We the undersigned, being the duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from the State of Wisconsin do hereby certify the following…”

But none of the seven certificates indicated that the signatories listed were an illegitimate slate of electors, not chosen by those states’ voters.

In Wisconsin, the 10 signatories were Elections Commissioner Bob Spindell, then Republican Party of Wisconsin chair Andrew Hitt, Carol Brunner, Edward Scott Grabins, Bill Feehan, Robert F. Spindell, Jr., Kathy Kiernan, Darryl Carlson, Pam Travis, Kelly Ruh, Andrew Hitt and Mary Buestrin. Kiernan replaced Tom Schreibel, according to the documents.

Pettig says the “phony electors” need to be viewed as one part of a broader attempt to subvert or overturn elections. Other efforts he cites include bogus “audits” and partisan investigations — such as the one being conducted by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos overseen by attorney Michael Gableman — as well as planting broad distrust in election results, as many Wisconsin Republican legislators have done.

“I think what we are seeing here on multiple levels, on multiple fronts is a broad effort by the former president and his allies to overturn the election by whatever means possible,” Pettig concludes.

Wisconsin pushback

Wisconsin may be the only state where there is attention being drawn to the falsified documents and the people that signed them, because here Law Forward attorneys Mel Barnes and Jeff Mandell filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission nearly a year ago regarding what they deemed “fraudulent electors.” The day after filing the complaint, Barnes, and earlier this month Mandell, also authored columns on the topic for the Examiner.

Much to Mandell’s surprise the issue has received little attention despite the gravity of its implications for future elections and for democracy. Why does it matter that 10 Republicans sat around and cosplayed electors after challenges to the results through multiple court cases, investigations, recounts and audits had not overturned Biden’s Wisconsin win?

Mandell has a lot to say in response to that question.

“There’s no harm in people who are engaged in politics, and who care passionately about public policy, sitting around and being upset that they lost an election or planning how they’re going to win the next one,” he says. “That’s very different from trying to defraud the 3.3 million people in Wisconsin who voted of the value of their votes by trying to convince Congress to credit Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes and Wisconsin’s role in choosing the president of the United States to the candidate who lost.

“Being a presidential elector is not some toy or prize at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks. It is serving as a public official and as an esteemed representative of everyone who voted in Wisconsin.

“And so for these people to try to steal that and try to impersonate that when they didn’t have the right because Wisconsinites chose a different candidate — that’s really, really dangerous and undermines our democracy.”

On Feb. 15, 2021, Law Forward, acting on behalf of its clients, including SEIU and several individuals, sent a letter to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The letter laid out the areas of Wisconsin criminal law the attorneys believe were violated, including forgery, falsely assuming to act as a public officer, misconduct in office and “likely engaging in conspiracy to commit criminal acts.”

Mandell says he cannot prove coordination with Trump allies in the other states, but he adds that looking at the similarities between the bogus documents, “It’s difficult for me to believe … that all of this happened organically in five different states and nobody communicated with each other and nobody had legal advice in common. But we don’t really know.”

The Law Forward letter also states, “Should your office conclude that the fraudulent electors did not accomplish the unlawful goals of their actions, charges may be appropriate against them under Wis. Stat. § 939.32, for attempts to commit a felony or other crime.”

Mandell stresses that Trump’s phony electors only gathered after legal recourse had been exhausted in court cases and recounts that were not resolved in their favor. “There was no dispute left,” he says. “This was purely malicious and fraudulent.”

Today, nearly one year later, there has been no resolution or response to their complaint.

On Nov. 3, 2021 the Elections Commission went into closed session to discuss the matter. The Wisconsin Elections Commission ran into trouble because one of the 10 false electors — Bob Spindell — is a commission member. Mandell asked that Spindell be recused from deliberations as he should not be allowed to act as his own judge, “a pretty fundamental principle of jurisprudence.”

Mandell followed up with a letter to the state Department of Justice after Spindell did not respond in the time period allotted, then later pushed to be in on the WEC meetings where his actions, along with the other nine false electors, were discussed and acted upon. He says DOJ assured him Spindell could not defend his actions in closed session where Law Forward would not be present to respond.

That communication came in Nov. 2021 — and that was the last Mandell heard on the complaint.

Department of Justice spokesperson Gillian Drummond says she can only confirm that “DOJ assistant attorneys general are acting as outside counsel assisting the Wisconsin Elections Commission on this matter,” and could not provide any further update.

At a Nov. 3 WEC meeting that was scheduled to go immediately into closed session on this topic, Spindell complained about being excluded and launched into a defense of his actions as the chair attempted to move into closed session.

He complained at length about “the attempt to disqualify me — an outspoken Republican commission member — from participating in what Law Forward [states] about the so-called fraudulent president electors.”

Then he appeared to blame the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the Trump campaign for his own actions. His statement also appeared to back up the attorneys’ conclusion that it was a coordinated effort across a number of states.

“As an elector I only performed ministerial duties for the Republican Party of Wisconsin and Trump campaign,” fumed Spindell. “I sat there and signed papers as they were passed from person to person. [It was my] first time as an elector that I participated in this function of signing documents.” He added that he was told it was mandatory and necessary according to the Trump and RPW legal opinions in order to preserve Trump’s legal position.

Hawaii 1960

There has been a situation in which two slates of state electors submitted certifications. It took place in Hawaii in 1960. Mandell highlights this — and cites news photos of the event he found — because he believes it shows how things should be handled in “a bonafide, good-faith dispute,” were there ever any question of who was the legitimate victor in a state.

“They did things very, very differently than the fraudulent electors did here in Wisconsin,” he points out. “And I think that’s incredibly important.” He describes a ceremonial room where both slates of electors were present and met in front of the media and public with cameras recording the event. The governor welcomed both sides. “They did it in the light of day and everybody knew exactly what was happening,” he says. “They submitted both sets to Congress.”

Not so in this state in 2020. “Out here in Wisconsin, these people were skulking in the shadows and … there was not, at that point, further bonafide dispute about the outcomes of Wisconsin’s election.”

The situation of fraudulent electors was given some attention earlier this week by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and Politico, which only included Michigan and Arizona submissions. In Wisconsin, Rep. Jonathan Brostoff and Sen. Chris Larson, both Democrats from Milwaukee, sent a letter to Chisholm calling on him to investigate the situation and take action to “prosecute sedition.”

Brostoff says he was motivated to draw attention to the situation because he didn’t see the state holding fake electors accountable. He also sees what Republicans are doing to discredit the election, as well as authoring bills to make it harder to vote, as a “bait and switch.”

“The perpetrator is trying to get away with something by blaming others,” says Brostoff, expressing frustration that more than a year has passed with no action. “We cannot accept this as normal, responsible behavior, [especially] from people in positions like that. Regardless of how powerful they think they are, no one’s above the law. … We cannot move forward until this is resolved. We have to get to a point where we are building back trust.”

Mandell hopes to see a written report and recommendations soon, but says if the Elections Commission and DOJ are not responsive, the next step is taking the case to Dane County Circuit Court.

“There is a point at which adjudication delayed is adjudication denied,” says Mandell.

He also believes that given the actions from seven states, there may be a need for a national body such as Congress’ Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack to become involved.

And American Oversight — which conducted a deposition with Vos concerning records tied to his election investigation — plans to continue to push to hold the fake electors accountable.

Pettig says that the people attempting to subvert and overturn elections and make it more difficult to vote aren’t stopping those efforts — so American Oversight doesn’t plan to stop either.

“We’ve been actively investigating the people and networks behind the attempt to overturn the election and then, also, the subsequent attempts to cast doubt on the results through partisan election investigations in different states,” he says.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the attempt to overturn the election, who was involved, and if we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, we need to know the facts,” he says. “So we have continued investigating the bogus election audits in Arizona, the partisan investigation going on in Wisconsin now and other efforts to raise false claims of voter fraud as a pretext for enacting new voting restrictions.”

“I think it’s clear that the people behind the election challenges haven’t stopped,” Pettig adds, “So we are going to continue investigating.”


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

IN OTHER NEWS: Fox News’ Peter Doocy admits there are Republicans ‘that don’t agree with voting rights’

Fox News’ Peter Doocy admits there are Republicans ‘that don’t agree with voting rights’ www.youtube.com

Wisconsin GOP legislators vote to curtail voter participation

On Monday, the joint Senate and Assembly rules committee voted 6-4 along party lines with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats voting against requiring the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) to draw up emergency rules to regulate ballot drop boxes and what election clerks are permitted to do regarding errors or missing information on absentee ballot envelopes. The Elections Commission will meet Tuesday on these issues.

In a statement after the vote, committee chair Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), put out a statement giving WEC 30 days to draw up emergency rules, which he then pointed out that his committee could suspend if the committee “determines the agency lacks statutory authority.”

Democrats on the committee — Sens. Chris Larson, Kelda Roys and Rep. Gary Hebl and Lisa Subeck — released a joint statement in response to what they dubbed an action aimed “at reducing absentee voting in Wisconsin.”

The four Democrats wrote: “On the one year anniversary of the Republican-led insurrection in Washington, D.C., Senator Nass and the Republicans … announced a vote to further limit voter participation.

“Nass and others are hell-bent on maintaining power, even if it means undermining democracy. From their illegitimate gerrymandered majority to voter suppression and amplifying the Big Lie, Wisconsin’s legislative Republicans have made their disdain for Wisconsin voters clear.”

Sunday on UpFront on WISN News in Milwaukee, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos again extended the deadline for Michael Gableman’s ongoing 2020 presidential election probe, moving it to the end of February, when Vos said he expects a final report.

During the WISN interview, Vos said that date would still allow the Legislature to “utilize that as part of the evidence we present to the people of Wisconsin as to why we need to make the changes,” to election law or rules, Vos said.

Vos also told WISN that he gives updates to former President Donald Trump as to what is going on with the review: “Oh yeah, I’ve talked to him. I wouldn’t say on a regular basis, but half a dozen times just to keep him up-to-date to make sure he understands what’s happening but to know we are doing our very best.”

During the UpFront interview, Vos also said that he did not support dissolving the Wisconsin Elections Commission or putting the secretary of state, a partisan office currently held by Democrat Doug La Follette, in charge of election administration. Vos had previously said he believes five of the six WEC commissioners — including his own appointee former GOP Rep. Dean Knudson — should be criminally charged for actions on the commission he believes violated the law.

Vos also, in an interview with the Associated Press, disagreed with U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s expressed desire to see the Legislature take over elections, replacing the Elections Commission. GOP Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, made similar comments last week, telling AP he is opposed to “blowing up” the bipartisan Elections Commission.


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Sorry Trump, Duffy rejects your plea to ‘Run Sean, Run!’

A former right-wing Republican congressman and supporter of Donald Trump announced Thursday that he is not going to be following the advice of the former president.

Trump was publicly pushing former northern Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy to run for governor. “Working hard to get very popular and capable Former Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin to run for Governor. He would be fantastic!” Trump said in a statement in October. “A champion athlete, Sean loves the people of Wisconsin, and would be virtually unbeatable…Run Sean, Run!”

Duffy did not respond to Trump’s entreaties at the time, but broke his silence on that topic on the anniversary of the D.C. Capitol insurrection when he joined a conservative WISN talk radio show and announced he would not run for governor in 2022 or for senator.

Sen. Ron Johnson has still not said if he will run for reelection, but Duffy backing away was taken as a sign by political observers that Johnson may indeed be running. His comments also cleared away another serious potential challenger to Rebecca Kleefisch, the former lieutenant governor, who is the only high-profile candidate running against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Speculation continues to surround Republican businessman Kevin Nicholson who ran for Senate in 2018 with major backing from Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, before losing in a primary to former state Sen. Leah Vukmir, who went on to lose to Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Nicholson has spent at least $500,000 on advertisements and formed a nonprofit group he dubbed No Better Friend chastising Democrats for supporting so-called critical race theory and trashing President Joe Biden — giving the strong impression that he will launch a statewide campaign of some kind. Last September he confirmed his interest in running for Senate or the governor’s office to TMJ4’s Charles Benson, who asked him, “Is it fair to say that Kevin Nicholson’s name will be on the ballot in 2022?” At the time Nicholson responded, “Yes, it is.” But he has not made any announcement.

In 2019, Duffy stepped down during his fifth term in Congress to spend more time with his family that includes nine children. To run for governor a person needs to be a Wisconsin voter, which requires being at their address for 28 days prior to voting. Duffy assured Jay Weber’s radio audience that even though he has moved to New Jersey and sold his Wisconsin home and continues to focus on his kids, “If an opportunity presents itself I’d like to come back and partake in Wisconsin politics.”


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

'Epic train wreck': Wisconsin GOP election probe ‘grift’ gets blasted from all sides

Over the past week, Republicans — including a state senator who chairs the Senate’s election committee — have blasted Speaker Robin Vos’ 2020 election probe as a “charade” that is harmful to democracy. Newspaper editorial boards have also offered harsh criticism, including the Capital Times, which characterized the ‘audit’ as “looney,” and an “epic train wreck.”

The outrage directed at Vos and his appointed leader of the partisan election investigation, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, began with a Monday panel hosted by national election monitors, but also including former county clerk and current state Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls). Panelists spoke out about the need to protect election administrators and officials who are getting threats and other harassment because Republicans, including former President Donald Trump and Gableman, have asserted that the election was stolen.

The panel moderator and host was David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR) based in Washington D.C. — a group that secures pro-bono attorneys and others to assist election officials who are being harassed, threatened, subpoenaed or even prosecuted. Joining Becker and Bernier were three national election experts, including a Republican and a Democrat who are strong partisans in their political work on the presidential level and equally strong in their shared belief that the election was fair and accurate and that continued efforts like Vos’ represent a danger to democracy.

Becker stressed that professional election officials are facing serious threats despite conducting a secure, accurate election due to the “ongoing delegitimizing of elections in this country,” and “false doubts about the outcome and integrity of the 2020 election” being spread in Wisconsin and elsewhere. He said that many groups in many states — including groups incentivized to find fraud — have “found zero evidence of fraud that could overturn the election results.”

“It’s been over 420 days since that election, an election by any objective measure which was the most secure, transparent and verified election in American history,” Becker said. “We had more paper ballots that can be audited than ever before … including here in Wisconsin. We had audits of those ballots — more audits than ever before in American history — all of which confirm the results.”

Vos responded by telling reporters that he plans to extend the disparaged audit that was supposed to end in the fall, and that he may need to allot additional taxpayer money beyond the $680,000 he had already allocated to Gableman’s crusade seeking fraud in the 2020 election — one that former President Donald Trump bullied Vos into launching.

“I never in my wildest dreams predicted the level that Democrats would go to try to block and throw up roadblocks to everything that we’re doing,” said Vos. The probe he launched is unusual in part because neither Democrats nor the public have much information about how it is being conducted or what it has found, since it is being conducted primarily in secret. Vos told the Associated Press that any additional money needed is because Democrats — presumably including the mayors whom Gableman threatened to jail after they said they would testify in public but not in private as he wanted — were not cooperating, adding, “But that’s on the Democrats, not on us.” He also accused Democrats of “McCarthyite tactics” for objecting to Gableman’s highly paid staff, which is filled with election result deniers, including some who went to court to try and overturn Wisconsin’s election results.

Attorney General Josh Kaul, who is representing the Wisconsin Elections Commission in court as Gableman tries to force its director to testify in private, also pushed back on the investigation this week, telling Wisconsin Public Radio, “The results of this investigation are not going to be credible. And we are wasting taxpayer money on this investigation. And so the sooner it comes to a close, the better.” He also praised Bernier for calling for it to end soon, adding, “I wish we would see more Republicans speaking out.”

Bernier’s most recent stand

Sen. Bernier got a lot of news coverage and spoke more forcefully at Monday’s event than she previously had in public, but it was not the first time the senator had spoken out against what she dubbed the “charade” of an elections audit being run by Gableman and Vos. She’s also taken on the lopsided hearings held by the Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaigns run by Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) and conducted her own informational hearing as chair of the Senate elections committee, to explain exactly how elections are conducted and to show, as she put it, that “It is not easy to fraudulently vote in the state of Wisconsin.”

Bernier — while no longer an election official — faced harassment after her comments and posted on Twitter Thursday: “I’ve been contemplating retirement. But, I may rethink it. Right wingers calling for my resignation is motivation!” The tweet received a chorus of positive responses encouraging and thanking the senator.

She said she finds praise from Democrats “rather embarrassing” when she gets their text messages, but ends up with “numerous” calls to her office after her Republican colleagues send out press releases or post on Facebook “complaining or whining” about her statements on elections. “These made up things that people do to jazz up the base is just despicable. And I don’t think any elected legislator should ever play that game.”

Bernier sees the election fraud rhetoric as harmful to her party. “I am a Republican. I vote conservative. I want Republicans to win and for our good policies to continue forward,” she said during the panel presentation. “This is a charade — what’s going on with this constant drumbeat of all the massive voter fraud. There’s a simple explanation for almost everything that people accuse election officials of doing.”

The former clerk listed conspiracy theories and then busted myths with facts on how elections work in practice, from the type of paper used for ballots to actions a poll worker can and cannot control. For example, she countered the idea that there could be a ballot dump, stating that “every single ballot has a voter associated with it on the poll list.” There cannot be copies made, she continued, because there are timing marks on ballots and they are printed on special, heavy-weight paper.

Bernier said that her colleagues are acting under pressure from Trump “to only look at politics and not at policy.” She said she’d given “my friend Speaker Vos a lot of latitude with the Gableman thing” but believes it’s inciting trouble.

“Mr. Gableman is coming to my county and I will attend that meeting, along with my concealed carry permit to be perfectly honest, because it keeps jazzing up the people who think they know what they’re talking about, and they don’t,” said Bernier. “And so I think my advice would be to have Mr. Gableman wrap up sooner rather than later. Because the longer we keep this up, the more harm … we’re going to do for Republicans. I’m doing this for a selfish reason. I am a Republican, I vote conservative, I want Republicans to win and for our good policies to continue forward. This is a charade.”

She ended her initial remarks with a tremor in her voice, saying. “No election is perfect. But there is no evidence of intentional malfeasance. No evidence that the election in 2020 wasn’t accurate.”

Using, perhaps unawares, a quote Vos often cites, she continued, “When Benjamin Franklin came out of the convention, and our Constitution was created, he was asked, ‘What kind of government do we have?’ And he said, ‘A republic, if we can keep it.’” Bernier paused and her eyes teared up as she added, fiercely, “We’re in jeopardy of losing it.”

Harassing election officials

The core purpose of the panel discussion was to discuss the harassment and threats nationwide against election officials. Central to the group coming to Wisconsin was a focus was Megan Wolfe, the nonpartisan head of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, who a slew of Republicans have called on to resign because she has factually stated that the election was secure, safe and accurate. Both Democrats and Republicans on the panel praised her work and commitment and railed against Republicans who are demanding she resign.

Becker said Wolfe is “widely respected all over the country,” and pointed out that she is the incoming president of the National Association of State Election Directors. “Despite that, there are doubts that are being inflamed by the loser of the presidential election and others,” said Becker. “And this is causing a great crisis in our democracy.”

Matt Masterson, an election security expert under the Trump administration in the Department of Homeland Security, complimented election officials as “doing heroic work” in an election that has been “run, certified, litigated, audited, recounted … more than a year ago.”

He pulled no punches describing the Vos/Gableman probe and others like it, repeatedly using the word “grift.”

“It is following a known mis- and disinformation playbook where one creates doubt and distrust about the process in order to build on the narratives, to cause confusion, to cause emotional response in order to gain financial and political success. A grift.”

Masterson said those “pursuing this grift” have learned lessons from mistakes in Arizona where they used “a big top approach” bringing the circus to the civic center and letting people see what they were doing, which revealed it was a fiasco. He described the Wisconsin effort as more decentralized, including not only the Gableman investigation, but also door-to-door “sedition” canvassing reinforcing the narrative, as well as trying to achieve “through intimidation and threats what cannot be achieved legislatively” in an attempt to drive out Wolfe and other election officials and dismantle the Wisconsin Election Commission. By inciting harassment, Masterson warned, legislators are driving out election workers with institutional knowledge.

Another panelist, Republican Ben Ginsberg, who has been involved in GOP presidential elections for 40 years and noted that he was the lawyer for Scott Walker’s presidential campaign, praised election administrators. As the Republican co-chair of the Election Officials Legal Defense Network, he said, “Our basic message to election officials is we have your back.”

Ginsberg stressed he remains a conservative Republican and is alarmed by what is happening in Wisconsin — taking elections “away from the pros and giving it to the pols.” Politicians’ criticism of the election have led to clerks and officials who are not doing the bidding of one party being threatened with everything from physical harm to criminal prosecution.

“We are here today, because Wisconsin has found itself really in the middle of a harmful and disturbing national trend that involves the intimidation of election officials — the people who are supposed to call balls and strikes in our elections,” said Ginsberg. “It’s part of an attempt, overall, that’s quite dangerous. It’s an attempt to exert partisan influence — if not control over — the casting and counting of votes. And that would come at a great cost to the democracy.”

The Republican end game

It was clear the Assembly was headed down a path of election conspiracy promotion back when Vos tossed slightly more moderate Rep. Ron Tusler (R – Harrison) out as elections committee chair and replaced him with Brandtjen, one of the most far right-wing members of the Legislature who told constituents in a missive that Trump won the 2020 election.

Brandtjen began the push for a more extensive audit, criticizing Vos for not going far enough, backed by other Trump followers unhappy with him who rallied to “toss Vos.” He launched what they called an “Arizona-style forensic audit” on the eve of the Wisconsin GOP convention in May after being chastised by Trump, tapping Gableman to conduct a taxpayer funded audit, later joining Trump on his plane to show he was fully on board.

Bernier spoke to what she thought would happen to legislative Republicans in Wisconsin who were continuing down this path, advising them to “wrap it sooner rather than later,” because “the longer we keep this up, the more harm” it will do to the party.

Ginsberg agreed. He said that “as a Republican, I think this is bad for Republicans and the electoral future of the party.” His take was that calling legitimate elections illegitimate becomes a “self-fulfilling prophecy” that ends with no one having faith in the elections.

The focus on fraud depresses turnout by convincing people not to vote. “It is Republicans who are making these charges, and that’s going to depress our turnout in elections, Republicans are going to suffer at the ballot box,” he said.

Ginsberg warned, “What goes around comes around,” opining that a vicious cycle of challenging elections has no winners. Criticizing President Joe Biden, he said that by obsessing about the last election, Republicans are missing opportunities to tell voters what they would be doing instead right now as Biden pushes Build Back Better and other policy initiatives.

“This is a time when Republicans should be rising to the fore with constructive, conservative policy and solutions,” he said, stating that polls show signs of people disillusioned with the president and the Democratic Party that controls the federal government. He said that if Republicans successfully “tilt the playing field” by manipulating elections in the short term, it won’t last forever, so he hopes that Republicans will take a good look at the harm their attacks on elections and those who administer them are causing to their party — as well as democracy.

“Amid all the charges and threats and investigations and reports, what’s particularly important to note is there still has been no hard evidence of systemic election fraud, despite the decibel levels,” said Ginsberg. “It’s true here in Wisconsin. And what impacts me, as a conservative Republican, is that we owe it to the democracy to have substantive evidence behind such charges before tearing down something as fundamental as faith in elections.”


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Wisconsin Republicans are backing a Maricopa-style election 'fraudit' -- will it backfire?

Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) is making a name for herself. Out of the 99 members of the state Assembly, few representatives are recognizable to the general public. But as the chair of the Assembly elections committee who successfully pushed to launch a massive “Arizona-style audit," Brandtjen's office confirms that her emails, phone calls and media requests have skyrocketed — particularly from outside her suburban Milwaukee district.

Brandtjen also managed to do something rarely seen in the Assembly Republican caucus — she realigned Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' position, pushing him around to her vision, which he had repeatedly opposed. (Of course, she got a little bit of help, and kudos, from former President Donald Trump.)

In fact, on Friday, supporters of Brandtjen's audit packed into Vos' office, later visiting Senate GOP leaders, demanding they sign her subpoenas to seize Wisconsin voting machines.

Given her notoriety and requests for her presence at rallies and protests — including events where Vos has been ridiculed with calls of “Toss the Vos" — has her stance supporting the discredited theory that there was massive election fraud affected her standing among donors?

It is hard to assess whether her false claim that Trump won the election has helped or hindered her future ability to campaign. Brandtjen asserts that there was massive fraud and even requested that former Vice President Mike Pence refuse to certify the election. All of that happened after she was re-elected in November 2020. Furthermore, she ran unopposed in both the primary and general election for her seat last year.

But politicians may not see as much fallout from corporate donors as it initially appeared when legislators in Wisconsin and elsewhere tried to put a halt to the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

“Right around Jan. 6 there were a slew of different corporations that said right away that they would refrain from spending on or supporting the individuals in Congress who objected to Biden's certification," says Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a law professor at Stetson University College of Law and a Brennan Center fellow specializing in campaign finance and political branding.

Six months later, in July, much of the initial horror over the Capitol insurrection had quieted while Trumpism was resurging and groundless allegations of election fraud were repeated by Republicans to justify passing laws that make it harder to vote.

“At that point a lot of the very same corporations who made all these promises had basically gone back on their word," says Torres-Spelliscy. “They were supporting members of Congress who had objected to the certification of the 2020 election. Some of that was literally direct spending, but most of it was indirect spending," such as donations to a leadership PAC supporting an entire party delegation. She labels that “one of the more disingenuous ways that corporations have continued some of their support."

Support for election conspiracy-espousing politicians has continued with seemingly little consequence thus far in part because months before the election, Trump and Republican leaders were beginning to sow doubt about the validity of the election with predictions of fraud. Torres-Spelliscy contrasts that to courts and judges all across the country who have had no problem determining that Biden won the election and charging individuals involved in the Jan. 6 riot for trespassing and more violent actions.

The court of public opinion, however, has been kinder to the Capitol rioters and their backers in the months after the insurrection.

“I think there has been this very effective use of political branding to cast doubt on the outcome of the 2020 election," Torres-Spelliscy says. “So once you get down to the quotidian Republican voter, lots of them have been duped into thinking that there was something wrong with the 2020 election when there was not."

Leading Wisconsin's so-called audit

The watchdog group Accountable.US looked into the corporate and interest group donors that gave to past campaigns of political officials “that continue to push election audits and peddle baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, including those connected to extremist groups and with histories of anti-vaccine rhetoric." In Wisconsin, the group focused its report on Brandtjen and two others who toured the Maricopa audit site with her, and also have taken stances against vaccines: Reps. Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego) and Dave Murphy (R-Greenville).

Brandtjen's top donor over her four elections was the Wisconsin Realtors Association, according to FollowtheMoney.org. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign shows that businesses run by her top individual donors include Barthenheier Construction and the Russ Darrow Group.

Brandtjen's district is solidly Republican, however, so her fundraising is generally lower than amounts raised in more competitive districts.

The top 10 PACs (political action committees) and trade groups that donated to Brandtjen according to Accountable.US were: Wisconsin Realtors Association $3,500), Milwaukee Police Association ($1,750), Walmart ($1,500), American Federation for Children ($1,500), Rebecca PAC ($1,000), Wisconsin Institute of CPAs ($700), Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin $600), Forest County Potawatomi ($500), Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance ($500) and Tavern League of Wisconsin ($500).

While other donors refused to answer questions on future support, the Wisconsin Realtors have a straightforward answer on whether it would stop supporting Brandtjen, or any other legislator pushing for the Trump-driven audit.

“The very simple and concise answer to your question is no, it will have no influence," says Joe Murray, Wisconsin Realtors Association's director of political affairs. “We're real estate related and we're going to stick in that wheelhouse. … She will continue to get our support as long as she continues to be very pro-housing, pro-real estate and pro-business. And she is."

Murray says his group's top issue right now is growing the housing supply — particularly for middle-income families, in what is often referred to as “workforce housing." The only impact of the currently divisive political climate is to adhere strictly to such a focus.

“Especially in today's environment [getting involved in election disputes] is especially an unwise thing to do because it's just not what our concerns are." Murray says.

Accountable.US, the Washington, D.C.-based group that compiled the report, is calling on corporations such as Walmart — which backed Brandtjen and Murphy, to publicly condemn misleading, anti-democratic rhetoric.

“These fringe representatives are willing to undermine our democracy just to score political points with the twice-impeached former president by keeping his Big Lie alive," Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig says.

“They would rather fan the flames of insurrection by spreading unhinged conspiracy theories than accept the will of the people. It is clear that no amount of evidence that the election was fair will satisfy those who are acting in bad faith. The question is: why haven't the corporations that have supported these anti-democratic representatives in the past condemned their rhetoric?"

Halting political giving

One month after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the New York Times looked into whether the event — and conspiracy theories about the election — had affected corporate giving to politicians, particularly those tied to the insurrection:

“The most immediate change since the riot is that hundreds of big companies halted their donations to the lawmakers who objected to the vote certification, the motivating event for the mob in Washington. Many companies paused political giving altogether," the Times reported.

Direct, trackable donations are only one avenue for corporate giving and many could still be backing such candidates through other channels. And while some groups have stepped away from backing candidates involved in extreme activities that undermine democracy, others have been willing to continue, as Wisconsin's Diane Hendricks and the Uihleins have done.

“This crazy propaganda about our elections and endless fishing expeditions they're on, I think will hurt people who are peddling this garbage on the one hand," asserts Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “But on the other hand, I think they are calculating that there's plenty of money out there from far-rightwing, super-rich sources that they're going to go after and solicit. And that would compensate for any loss they have from more moderate folks."

“Trump fever" diminished immediately after Jan. 6 as the public witnessed shocking pictures of the Capitol being breached and looted, and some political scientists suggested that extremism had been sidelined. But the fervor came back quickly, funneled into Cyber Ninja-mimicking audits in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. “I don't know if companies are going to act where they said they were going to act," Rothschild says. “I hope there is pressure on them to behave responsibly."

Wisconsin has seen corporate boycotts. During the massive public protests over then-Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting Act 10, many progressives stayed away from buying Johnsonville Brats and Sargento cheese because those companies continued to back Walker. More recently Liz and Dick Uihlein's support of Trump steered some people away from their company, Uline, which makes packaging and supply products.

It could be that consumers will divide brands along political fault lines.

Years ago, when campaign finance regulations authored by former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold and the late Arizona Sen. John McCain were tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court, Feingold predicted that society could become so politically polarized that there would be a Republican toothpaste and a Democratic toothpaste.

He may not be far off the mark. After MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell became a vocal Trump fan, using his large microphone to make increasingly wild and false assertions about fraud, Parkland shooting survivor and gun-control advocate David Hogg started up Good Pillow, a progressive company to compete against MyPillow.

“Maybe corporations think that by funding people peddling the conspiracy, they'll get the consumers who believe in that conspiracy," says Rothschild. “And that's how polarized our society is right now."

The more serious consequence of fake audits — or “fraudits" as they are now being labeled by opponents and some media, is their long-term impact on democracy, says Torres-Spelliscy. She calls Maricopa County's widely disparaged ballot review “a recipe for disaster."

But she believes there is a potential backlash brewing against the elected officials pushing “fraudits" that could hurt corporate donors to politicians who perpetrate what Democrats are calling “The Big Lie" that Trump won the election.

“I think the more that a corporation is associated with a thing that is a fake audit," says Torres-Spelliscy, “that's going to undermine the public's faith in democracy, and the more that that company risks a backlash, either from their customers, or even from their shareholders."

Taking a political stand of any kind can be dangerous for companies that want to maintain broad consumer appeal.

She points to Coke and other “public-facing" companies that were rebuked during the debate over election laws in Georgia, as being particularly vulnerable to public outcry because people can make a simple choice not to drink their product. The anti-voter and anti-abortion actions in Texas are also putting political heat on groups doing business in that state.

“If you're a corporation that funded the politicians that made these awful, awful laws you are risking a backlash, either from the people who buy your products or your investors," Torres-Spelliscy says. “And we'll see whether corporations take more of a public stance on democracy itself."


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Wisconsin Republicans push forward on anti-abortion bill

Shortly after Texas implemented the most extreme anti-abortion bill in the nation, Wisconsin legislative Republicans are moving forward on an extreme bill of their own, which authors Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) named the “born alive" bill.

This article was originally published at Wisconsin Examiner

The measure was introduced last session as well and passed the Legislature only to be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers — a path that will likely be repeated this session. The bill was introduced in January and received a hearing in the state Senate Judiciary & Public Safety committee on Thursday.

The bill requires any health care provider present during an abortion, in the exceedingly rare circumstance that a baby is born, to take the same measures that would be taken during any birth to preserve the child's life. Any violation is a felony, carrying a fine of up to $10,000, up to six years imprisonment or both. Intentionally causing the death of a child after an abortion, which bill proponents describe as “born alive," carries the same penalties as first-degree intentional homicide. That is redundant as infanticide is already illegal in Wisconsin, and every other state. The bill specifies that the mother cannot be prosecuted. Opponents point out that penalties are already in place and would apply in the cases outlined in the bill.

The bill is similar to a national bill by the same name that former President Donald Trump promoted, attracting widespread, heated attention with his tweet claiming “The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don't mind executing babies AFTER birth."

The Wisconsin bill is one of a half-dozen anti-abortion bills introduced this session in the Legislature.

Given that the situation described in the bill is so rare, and that it won't become law while Evers is governor, Republicans are using it to focus political attention on a more controversial aspect of the abortion debate, which is abortion during the third trimester, possibly in the hope of forcing Democrats in swing districts to vote on it.

In vetoing the bill last session, along with three other anti-abortion bills, Evers commented, “Everyone should have access to quality, affordable health care, and that includes reproductive health care. Politicians shouldn't be in the business of interfering with decisions made between patients and their health care providers."

Registered as lobbying against the bills are the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – WI, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin: the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, Inc. and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Groups registered as lobbying in favor of the bills are Wisconsin Catholic Conference, Wisconsin Family Action and Wisconsin Right to Life.


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Wisconsin Republican schools her colleagues for pushing Trump-inspired election falsehoods

The state Senate elections committee informational hearing held Wednesday afternoon was quite boring.

There were no allegations, voiced by elected officials and Trump lawyers, that votes were stolen with the help of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg, as has happened previously at Assembly election committee meetings.

There was no meltdown by a CEO of a pillow company after he failed to show promised proof of a stolen election, as Wisconsin officials travelled to South Dakota to observe.

There were no conspiracy theorists given a microphone to call out “urban" areas as cheating to throw the race for Joe Biden, as also happened at Assembly elections committee meetings.

And there was no legislator posing for pictures with Donald Trump to assure his backers on the far-right that there will be a super-duper-cyber-ninja-machine-seizing-bamboo-ballot-hunting audit to dig up fraud despite more than a dozen other checks proving it didn't take place, as Speaker Robin Vos did.

Wednesday's meeting — run by conservative Republican Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) — was two-and-a-half hours of verifiable facts, presented by experts in their fields giving excruciatingly minute details on the redundant levels of security and checks done before, during and after Election Day in Wisconsin.

What makes the Senate Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics Committee meeting notable is that it was not only Democrats pushing back on the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Bernier — saying she was sick and tired of false propaganda and misinformation — assembled a presentation of facts and security practices put on by the people who run the elections.

In short, it was what the public should expect from an elected body.

A 'very robust system'

“We do a huge system test on everything," began Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson, the first speaker. “Our elections are not done by one person. It's a coordinated effort throughout the entire state. It starts with our municipalities — so our towns, our villages, our cities, our counties, our state and our election providers — we all work together to make elections happen. It doesn't end up in a little … backroom making this happen. It is all checked and balanced, back and forth between all of us to make sure our elections are fair and transparent."

Her statement was only noteworthy because it came after months of disinformation and increasingly wild allegations and hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars allocated for a so-called “cyber-forensic audit" overseen by Speaker Robin Vos and his special counsel former Justice Michael Gableman, goaded on by Assembly elections committee chair Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), who told her constituents in a newsletter that Donald Trump won the 2020 election in Wisconsin.

Republicans in the Legislature, particularly the Assembly, have been perpetrating the illusion that there was massive fraud with their rhetoric and then justifying multiple, expensive audits by saying the constituents who are listening to their rhetoric about fraud are concerned the election was rigged.

Bernier, Brandtjen's counterpart in the Wisconsin Senate, brought together Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson, Brookfield Municipal Clerk Kelly Michaels and Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe. Later in the meeting they were joined by the chief security officer and his colleague from Elections Systems and Software, one of the companies that makes election equipment for Wisconsin, who demonstrated how the machines run and how their processes are secured.

The speakers detailed the practice of updating poll books on a daily basis throughout the state right up to Election Day to ensure accuracy. They described tamper-proof seals put on the machines. They explained procedures, tabulating and canvassing votes, audits, checks for fraud and mistakes and election equipment with “multi-factor authentication" and “endpoint detection," to ensure that only a secure, approved device can access the database system. Wolfe said absentee ballots are collected and tracked at the municipal level and are also required to be tracked in the statewide system.

“We're in charge of securing that system as well," said Wolfe. “And despite the fact that we have more than 2,000 users of our system, we have some incredible security features built into that system, because again it's the clerks' data, it's the voters' data, but we're securing that database. … It's a very robust system."

Countering fraud allegations with facts

Some of the Assembly members who traveled to Arizona to observe that state's widely discredited Cyber Ninja audit, including Brandtjen and Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville), were in the room and asked a couple of questions. But Benier let attendees know from the start that she would not tolerate any grandstanding.

“The reason we are having this is because so many people ask me so many questions about the electoral process," said Bernier, a former county clerk, who has stated publicly that she does not believe any additional audits of the 2020 presidential election are needed.

Her questions to participants were primarily technical on how machines and processes work — in stark contrast to the election meetings held in the Assembly where most of the individuals invited to testify, including bystanders with no particular expertise, expressed the viewpoint that there was rampant fraud and malfeasance in the 2020 elections, a widely discredited assertion.

“I really hope those who doubt the integrity of Wisconsin's elections are watching the informational hearing going on now in the WI Senate," tweeted Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee). “They are explaining the entire process of vote-counting and verification from start to finish. WI elections are safe and secure."

The clerks also pointed out a fact that was not highlighted in Assembly election committee meetings, where a number of election observers complained about not being able to stand close enough to poll workers. Wisconsin, like other states, had a dearth of poll workers in 2020, with many people staying home out of concern over COVID-19 being spread at the polls. Many poll workers are retired, elderly civic-minded citizens, whose age would have made them particularly vulnerable to observers who were insisting on standing as close as possible to observe the ballots and complained about social distancing, seemingly forgetting the pandemic.

“You know, 2020 was a very difficult year for elections," Mitchell said. “We've never done elections in a pandemic and we had a lot of requests for absentee ballots, people worried about getting their ballots, people worried about the post office not delivering them."

After the clerks took questions, the chief security officer for the private company Election Systems and Software, which supplies equipment throughout the state, listed all the security built into the voting equipment and tests that were run. Chris Wlaschin also gave his career bonafides, including overseeing all cyber security for the federal Department of Health and Human Services and his experience in security as a U.S. Naval officer.

His company, he said, voluntarily submitted these election devices to Homeland Security, on top of other extensive testing and product evaluation. They also work with the FBI in designing and building their equipment so it can address any potential threats.

“There's a whole lot of testing that goes on before it ever makes it to the state, and we're proud of that," said Wlaschin. “The proof is in the pudding. I've observed elections all over the country where we have a footprint — in 42 states — and I can tell you that municipalities, the counties, the state of Wisconsin, are doing it right. Doing it right."

And … that's a wrap

On Wednesday, Bernier was not the only Republican pushing back on false assertions that the election was stolen. In a separate event, the States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan group that advocates for fair elections, held a conference call with two GOP officials who spoke out against the Vos-Gableman audit. Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, said the audits in Arizona and Wisconsin are disinformation campaigns that pose a threat to democracy.

“We need leaders who are focused on governing, not pushing unfounded lies about a settled election nine months after the fact," said Whitman, a Republican who served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency under former President George W. Bush. Grayson said such audits and the misinformation they spread hurt democracy, as well as the future of the Republican Party. The group put out its own report comparing Wisconsin and Arizona audits titled, “Wisconsin Poised to Become Cyber Ninjas 2.0."

But the most definitive quote of the day was not from the national figures, but from Bernier as she drew her informational hearing to a close.

“I think we did a bang-up job in two hours and 15 minutes," concluded Bernier.

She told the group that in her first run for the state Assembly in 2010, she won by 87 votes on election night, which became 93 votes after a recount: “As a county clerk, I had, honestly, 100% confidence that that Assembly seat was not going to change because I was that confident in the processes that we have set up."

She says those processes have only improved since 2005 when a statewide voter registration system was brought on line. Two statewide recounts, one after the election of Supreme Court Justice David Prosser and one after the 2016 Trump election, also backed up initial results, she pointed out.

“I don't think we're gonna go to the purple ink and sticking our finger in the ink pad," she continued. “We have a great system overall. Is it perfect? No, I don't think you will find a perfect system, because we have very imperfect people, and we are human beings. So with that said, I hope you learned a lot about our system where the checks and balances are."

She told everyone who attended the meeting, without singling out the GOP Assembly members present who visited Arizona, that if they have any questions to contact the “folks who are on the ground and doing their level best," gesturing at the panel.

“I'm sorry, but there is not a reason to spread misinformation about this past election, when we have all the evidence that shows otherwise," Bernier concluded as she adjourned the meeting. “So thank you for attending. Have a wonderful day."


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Top Wisconsin Republican struggles to appease the election conspiracists in his party

With no public hearing or public meetings — using merely a paper ballot distributed by Republican leadership to members' offices — the committee that sets the Legislature's agenda voted along party lines 5-3 to hire staff and officially begin an election audit under the direction of Speaker Robin Vos.

This article was originally published at Wisconsin Examiner

The brief 5-line ballot did not specify any funding — or cost limits — on the election investigation, but Republicans have indicated they plan to spend $680,000 on “at least to start" in their hunt to find fraud and a disproven “steal" of the presidential election.

The actual ballot wording allows Vos to appoint someone to “oversee an Office of Special Counsel" investigating the integrity of the election. (Well before the vote he had already tapped former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman — an outspoken critic of the 2020 presidential election.)

The $680,000 number was first tossed out during an interview by rightwing conspiracy promoter and former Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon during a podcast interview with Trump's former chief of staff and GOP party leader Reince Priebus. However, the actual legislative ballot contained no dollar amount, leaving to Vos' discretion how much he wants taxpayers to spend.

“The ballot was incredibly vague," says Rep. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), who sits on both the committee that voted Monday to move forward on the election audit, as well as on the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, chaired by Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls). Brandtjen's committee is also conducting anaudit, one that appears to have the backing of the rightwing fringes of the Republican party. They have held rallies and slammed Vos' vision for an audit, taking up the cry of 'Toss the Vos.'

Asked if Vos could spend $680 million rather than $680,000 under the terms of this ballot, Spreizter confirms with a laugh, “Technically, he could."

Spreitzer adds, however, that there is a further, serious potential implication from the Republican Legislature's blank-check spending on an election audit, particularly with unlimited funds for redistricting lawyers — as well as potential lawsuits against UW System President Tommy Thompson, Dane County and other entities looking at mask mandates or vaccine requirements. “One thing to keep an eye on is that these costs all add up," says Spreitzer. “There is a requirement that schools get a certain amount [from the state] to meet maintenance of effort requirements, and that minimum is set based on the total amount of [general purpose revenue] actually spent." In other words, if Republicans spend too much of the state's general funds on lawsuits, they might run afoul of federal rules that require the state to maintain a high enough proportional level of funding for schools to remain eligible for more than $2 billion in federal school aid through pandemic relief programs.

Team Vos vs. Team Brandtjen

Earlier this month Vos flew to a rally with Trump, who posed for a picture with a submissive looking Vos leaning towards him, in what appeared to be an attempt to pacify Trump and Brandtjen backers who held a rally where many called for Vos' removal.

Spreizter says it was unclear from Monday's vote how the two committees' audits would function and what interplay there would be — or even if they would conduct separate or combined audits. Vos has not signed the subpoenas Brandtjen wants, but has confirmed he will sign whatever subpoenas Gableman desires. The brief ballot motion states only that the special counsel, AKA Gableman, will “assist the Elections and Campaign Committee."

The Wisconsin presidential election is also being audited by the Legislative Audit Bureau, a nonpartisan legislative agency. And it has been confirmed as accurate in three canvases, two partial recounts, random machine audits, the Wisconsin Elections Commission oversight and withstood various court challenges.

In a sign that there is still a division among Republican election skeptics, some legislators are getting lobbied to support the Brandtjen audit instead of Vos' plan. Previously, that audit was referred to by supporters as a “cyber forensic audit," but with Vos now calling his audit by that name, Brandtjen's supporters are now demanding a “Full Forensic Physical and Cyber Audit" (or FFPCA for short) in contrast with Vos' “forensic cyber audit." Proponents of election-fraud theories, both groups and individuals, continue to express dissatisfaction with Vos on various message boards and email lists viewed by the Examiner. A key difference appears to be their desire to seize machines and materials.

Brandtjen, who told her constituents in a newsletter that Trump won Wisconsin, has been joined in her efforts, including an attempt to seize election machinery by Rep. Timothy Ramthun (R-Campbellsport). The backers of “The Brandtjen Subpoenas" indicate they plan to hold another rally supporting Brandtjen and Ramthun.

While Vos in his public remarks has tried not to alienate either the Republican base that is convinced Trump won the 2020 election, or moderates who don't buy Trump's election conspiracy theories, “It's not clear to me if Vos was successful in his efforts to triangulate Trump and Brandtjen," says Spreitzer.

Vos and Brandtjen could not be reached for comment, but reporter Adam Rogan reported on an event for the Racine Journal Times, put on by Honest, Open, Transparent (H.O.T.) Government last week where Vos was the guest and he criticized the Arizona audit and told the group he did not want Wisconsin's audit to resemble Maricopa County's audit.

H.O.T Government is critical of Vos on its Facebook page and according to that site has hired Thomas E. Moore Society's embattled attorney Erick Kaardal — who also testified before the Assembly Elections committee — “in pursuit of the truth of what happened within the City of Racine, WI concerning their active participation and collaboration with the MARK ZUCKERBERG funded non-profit, CENTER FOR TECH AND CIVIC LIFE (CTCL) in allowing CTCL to design and implement their election and its processes."

Vos told the group members assembled that he wanted to look forward to election changes for the future — a talking point he has made in the past — rather than aiming to overturn the presidential election. That did not sit well with everyone present.

Rogen reports that at the meeting Sandra Morris, a member of the Racine County Republican Party's election integrity committee claimed, “People committed treason in this election. It seems like people committing the crimes never serve time … I want to make sure people pay a price. I don't want window dressing." She later told the newspaper she would not believe there was no foul play unless they could seize election materials and machines.

What's the difference?

With Vos having moved from backing election “reforms" that would make it harder to vote in the future, to his lunge toward the far-right, full-embrace of Trump, is there really much difference left between Team Brandtjen and Team Vos?

Vos has argued that his Gableman-led investigation is different because it is not seeking to predetermine a certain outcome: one determined to find fraud. However, Gableman made public statements that he has since tried to walk back that the election was stolen, accusing “bureaucrats" of having “stolen our votes." Additionally he attended a recent conspiracy-fueled circus put on by the discredited MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and went to Arizona to check out its audit overseen by Cyber Ninjas, a trip also made — with Vos' approval — by Brandtjen and other legislators..

“I think we can argue here that the speaker's audit is also predetermined to find a certain outcome," says Spreitzer.

Speaking with reporters on Monday, Gov. Tony Evers expressed his disgust at both GOP audit attempts calling them “outrageous," “a lot of wasted money" and indicating that when Vos flew to the Alabama rally and posed for a photo with Trump, the audits became unified from his vantage point:

“Things changed a bit when Robin Vos went down and visited Donald Trump and they took a nice picture on the plane," said Evers. “Apparently they're all drinking the Kool Aid."

Evers also views the outcome as predetermined — an attempt to demonstrate fraud that has been proven multiple times never to have occurred. He added of the committee vote giving a blank check to the person who leads the investigation, “I think it's really, really unfortunate. What it tells me is that person is going to be wide ranging … and they're going to be coming up with all sorts of things that just frankly aren't true.

“We had a fair election as last time. Joe Biden is the president and the continued attack on our democracy is just absolutely ridiculous. In my wildest dreams, when I decided to run for this office, I never thought protecting democracy would be one of the key things we'd do."


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Wisconsin GOP to spend 'at least' $680,000 in hunt for proof of Trump’s bogus election claims

On Wednesday dueling releases from the Republican and Democratic leaders of the state Assembly addressed the election audit that Speaker Robin Vos assured former President Donald Trump, who lost the 2020 election, he would perform while riding on Trump's plane to a rally on Saturday.

The so-called audit is part of the project for which Vos hired former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman: to investigate the Wisconsin vote in that election. The Wisconsin election has already been proven in courts, two recounts, machine audits and committee investigations to be fair and accurate. Additionally, Republicans have asked the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau to do another audit that is still underway.

Vos' release Wednesday said nothing he has not already said multiple times, other than to point out that it was being put out by the entire Assembly GOP, not just his office.

“Assembly Republicans have been working with Justice Gableman to conduct a swift, complete and thorough investigation," the release on behalf of all the Republican members of the Assembly stated. “Part of our discussion has been focused on hiring independent contractors to enhance our efforts. We believe a cyber-forensic audit is necessary to ensure issues did not happen in 2020. We have allocated additional resources to Justice Gableman to ensure this investigation gets to the truth."

Assembly Democratic leader Gordon Hintz put out a release 45 minutes later, drawing attention to an estimate (first reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) from former Trump chief-of-staff and GOP party leader Reince Priebus that the Wisconsin election investigation would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Priebus offered the estimate in an episode of a podcast hosted by former chief Trump strategist Steve Bannon. On his 'Bannons War Room' podcast, Bannon falsely asserted that “the most clear-cut steal is Wisconsin." Nodding, Priebus said, “I think the bill is going to fund $680,000, at least, to start."




Calling Bannon “disgraced" and an “alt-right extremist," Hintz pointed out that there is no question about the results and integrity of Wisconsin's 2020 presidential election:

“There was never a question about the results and the integrity of the 2020 election. The only question was whether Republican leadership would kiss the ring of Donald Trump and embrace the Big Lie to undermine our democracy.

“Let's be clear," continued Hintz. “This dangerous game being played by Robin Vos and other Wisconsin Republicans is part of a coordinated and well-funded national effort, with the ultimate goal being to undermine and overturn future elections."

Preibus also stated there would be more “outside money coming into Wisconsin." He added that the Wisconsin Republican legislators would also be bringing in “Dr. Shiva," the moniker of V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai, given to him by his conspiracy theory fans. Ayyadurai has promoted discredited and false medical claims and run unsuccessfully twice for the Senate in Massachusetts, where he accused election officials of deleting millions of ballots. He has also had his account suspended by Twitter and claimed Dr. Anthony Fauci is a “deep state plant" who should be fired.


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Wisconsin GOP to spend 'at least' $680,000 in hunt for proof of Trump’s bogus election claims

On Wednesday dueling releases from the Republican and Democratic leaders of the state Assembly addressed the election audit that Speaker Robin Vos assured former President Donald Trump, who lost the 2020 election, he would perform while riding on Trump's plane to a rally on Saturday.

The so-called audit is part of the project for which Vos hired former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman: to investigate the Wisconsin vote in that election. The Wisconsin election has already been proven in courts, two recounts, machine audits and committee investigations to be fair and accurate. Additionally, Republicans have asked the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau to do another audit that is still underway.

Vos' release Wednesday said nothing he has not already said multiple times, other than to point out that it was being put out by the entire Assembly GOP, not just his office.

“Assembly Republicans have been working with Justice Gableman to conduct a swift, complete and thorough investigation," the release on behalf of all the Republican members of the Assembly stated. “Part of our discussion has been focused on hiring independent contractors to enhance our efforts. We believe a cyber-forensic audit is necessary to ensure issues did not happen in 2020. We have allocated additional resources to Justice Gableman to ensure this investigation gets to the truth."

Assembly Democratic leader Gordon Hintz put out a release 45 minutes later, drawing attention to an estimate (first reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) from former Trump chief-of-staff and GOP party leader Reince Priebus that the Wisconsin election investigation would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Priebus offered the estimate in an episode of a podcast hosted by former chief Trump strategist Steve Bannon. On his 'Bannons War Room' podcast, Bannon falsely asserted that “the most clear-cut steal is Wisconsin." Nodding, Priebus said, “I think the bill is going to fund $680,000, at least, to start."




Calling Bannon “disgraced" and an “alt-right extremist," Hintz pointed out that there is no question about the results and integrity of Wisconsin's 2020 presidential election:

“There was never a question about the results and the integrity of the 2020 election. The only question was whether Republican leadership would kiss the ring of Donald Trump and embrace the Big Lie to undermine our democracy.

“Let's be clear," continued Hintz. “This dangerous game being played by Robin Vos and other Wisconsin Republicans is part of a coordinated and well-funded national effort, with the ultimate goal being to undermine and overturn future elections."

Preibus also stated there would be more “outside money coming into Wisconsin." He added that the Wisconsin Republican legislators would also be bringing in “Dr. Shiva," the moniker of V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai, given to him by his conspiracy theory fans. Ayyadurai has promoted discredited and false medical claims and run unsuccessfully twice for the Senate in Massachusetts, where he accused election officials of deleting millions of ballots. He has also had his account suspended by Twitter and claimed Dr. Anthony Fauci is a “deep state plant" who should be fired.


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.