Wisconsin Election Fraud Team Raises Questions
Republican leaders in states across the country spent the first half of 2021 lobbying to challenge the 2020 election, amplifying bogus conspiracies that the presidency was stolen and, in some cases, pushing for “audits.” To prove the case. But what’s happening in Wisconsin now is unique – a covert effort led by one of the state’s most powerful Republicans to undermine faith in the election.
The investigation is unlike anything else happening in the country, although it has a similar goal: to semi-officially cover false and misleading allegations of electoral fraud in 2020 as a means of justifying new voting restrictions. severe.
On May 26, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was going hire three former police officers review false allegations of widespread electoral fraud and other advice they receive about the election. They would be supervised by a lawyer, they would have subpoena power, and they would deliver a report to Vos, probably this fall.
Republicans on the Assembly’s organizing committee, which Vos chairs, voted two days later to give him, personally, the authority to “approve all financial costs and contractual arrangements for the hiring of legal advisers and of investigators ”for the company.
A month later, there is no information on what Vos’s three investigators are doing, and it is not even known who one of them is. Their meetings, if they hold them, are not public.
Vos used the same language other Republicans have used to support attempts to challenge the 2020 election: their inquiries are necessary because so many people don’t believe the last election was “legitimate,” while they themselves spread the idea that she was’ t. Never mind that audits by Wisconsin’s six-member bipartisan Election Commission – which includes a commissioner appointed by Vos himself – found only 27 cases of potential fraud among 3.3 million ballots cast in the state in November. “Is there a lot of smoke or is there really a fire?” We just don’t know yet, ”Vos told Journal Sentinel.
One thing Vos has been clear about is what he hopes to gain from his investigation. He recognizes that the election cannot be overturned (while arguing, oddly, “My job is to be frustrated with the result”) and so he wants these investigators to produce a report that will help him pass restrictive voting laws, which are currently vetoed by the state’s Democratic governor. Vos was explicit about it, saying the Sentinel Journal, “I want to gain public support for these electoral reforms.”
None of this was enough for former President Donald Trump, who said Friday that Vos was “working hard to cover up voter fraud” and called on Vos to back an “audit” like the sideshow in Arizona or lose his seat ; a resolution calling on him to step down at the state party’s annual convention on Saturday failed. Your mentionned that Trump was “just misinformed,” noting that Republicans voted in February to authorize the non-partisan Legislative Audit Office to see how the election went. Several Republicans on Saturday started to refer as a “forensic” audit, mimicking the language of Trump and his supporters.
BuzzFeed News has contacted Vos’s office on several occasions to ask for the identity of all investigators and other basic facts, such as when the investigation actually started, if there is a budget for the funded investigation by taxpayers, and where investigators do this work. His office ignored questions and declined several interview requests.
Democrats on the Assembly’s Election and Organizing Committees, the bodies that put all of this in place, told BuzzFeed News that even they don’t know who all the investigators are or what they are doing and what ‘There is no obligation for Vos to say so. . Vos’s authority over the investigation comes from what is called a “ballot“, literally a piece of paper asking lawmakers a” yes “or a” no “on something Vos wants, instead of public comments or anyone’s contributions. The authorization for the investigation is only two sentences long and does not include any details or limits.
Democratic Representative Dianne Hesselbein, whose office shared a copy of the ballot with BuzzFeed News, called the formation of the inquiry “another savage abuse of President Vos’s power.” Hesselbein a spoken previously on the frequent use by Vos’s management team of paper ballots to avoid public comment, noting that they are “often” used to authorize taxpayer dollars to hire private attorneys for political purposes. (Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have spent $ 8.5 million on lawyers over the past three years, according to a non-partisan report.)
“The president is desperately trying to challenge the legitimacy of an election that has proven time and time again to be fair,” Hesselbein said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “Not only does this harm our democracy, it is a flagrant violation of public trust.”
And at least one of Vos’s investigators has a habit of using electoral plots to try to restrict voting rights. It was former Milwaukee Police Detective Michael Sandvick, who wrote a discredited 2008 report claiming widespread voter fraud in the city during the 2004 presidential election and recommending that the state pass new law on voter identification and end same-day registration at the polls, the Sentinel Journal reported. Sandvick paid to copy and bind the report himself and hand-delivered the copies to heads of state parties, according to the newspaper. He was criticized by the police leadership and told him not to go to the polls on election day. he retired soon after, and the Republicans passed a voter identification law three years later when they took over the governor’s mansion.
Sandvick then went to work for the state Republican Party and for True the vote, a right-wing group that filed and then abandoned several lawsuits contest the defeat of Donald Trump in 2020 and tried to to expel 364,000 voters from the lists in Georgia.
Vos recognized at PA that Sandvick had “Republican leanings.”
Vos did not initially identify the other team members who work with Sandvick, but the PA got a copy of a contract he signed with Steve Page, a former Eau Claire officer. The contracts show that Page and Sandvick will each receive $ 3,600 per month through August. Vos still has not revealed the third member of the team, describing them on a Tory radio show only as a retired Brown County Sheriff’s Deputy who was involved in the investigation into the former mayor of Green Bay, Jim Schmitt, a Republican, for campaign finance violations.
As for the attorney, Vos announced at the Wisconsin GOP convention on Saturday that he was hiring former State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to oversee the investigation, telling attendees: “We wanted to make sure that you were the first to know. “
Gableman spoke at a rally for Trump supporters on November 7 after most news networks called for the election of President Joe Biden, where he told the crowd he didn’t was not convinced “this was an honest election”. according to WTMJ-TV. On Saturday it Told The Wisconsin Republicans in the election, “This is where we draw the line.”
Because he uses taxpayer funds, Vos will eventually have to report how much money he spends on the investigation, but the details of what it was spent on may never be public, Democratic Representative Mark Spreitzer told BuzzFeed News.
Spreitzer believes that’s why Vos brought in Gableman to investigate: so he can claim solicitor-client privilege over the entire exercise and avoid having to share details. This is something Vos has already done. At the end of 2018, the President of the Assembly signed a contract for $ 850,000 using public funds to retain the services of a law firm tasked with defending the redistribution maps drawn by Republicans and refused to make the contract public, despite the law on open files, citing attorney-client privilege. “That’s one of the ways they’ve tried to block public scrutiny of some of these things, ”Spreitzer said.
But if investigators tried to issue subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify or produce documents, it couldn’t happen in secret, Spreitzer said. He shared a note written by a lawyer from the Wisconsin Legislative Council (a non-partisan body that advises the legislature on state law) saying that by law any witness called should appear before the committee, which is subject to its own laws on public meetings. “So I think if it goes beyond just digging into what’s already out there in the public sphere, I think we’ll have to find out,” Spreitzer said.
What’s going on in the public sphere, of course, is a lot of misinformation and intentional lies about what happened last November. Contractors hired by the Republican-led Arizona Senate to ‘audit’ the vote in the state’s most populous county have been spotted using UV lights to search bamboo fibers because of a conspiracy theory that fake ballots had been shipped from Asia.
Your mocked looking for bamboo, but it still approved a request of a delegation of Republican Assembly members to travel to Phoenix to check on Arizona’s audit earlier this month (a trip that was paid for by the same black money group founded by reporters from the ‘OAN which helps finance the audit itself). The group of four Republicans was led by State Representative Janel Brandtjen, who chairs the Assembly Elections Committee and said she would like to see a similar process in Wisconsin. Like Vos investigators, Arizona contractors are working on a report, which they are expected to release later this summer.
Spreitzer said he had voters writing to him “since November, raising their own doubts about the election.” He rewrote them.
“I feel compelled to respond to that, to understand that they sincerely believe what they’re saying,” he said, “but, you know, trying to explain to them why maybe they’ve been. misled by people who have a political agenda to mislead them.