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.

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