State Representative: Liberal Wisconsin Group Accused of Election Bribery May Face Legal Action

State Representative Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) on Wednesday said a leftist nonprofit could face legal action for its alleged election bribery in favor of state Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz. 

Brandtjen, who recently chaired the state Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, told The Wisconsin Daily Star she believes discussions toward that end are underway though no complaints against Wisconsin Takes Action have yet been filed at this writing.

“I think a couple of groups are looking at it,” she said.

The representative is referring to revelations made earlier this week that Wisconsin Takes Action is engaged in a voter-outreach project that some believe violates Wisconsin’s election-bribery statute. 

State election law describes as a briber anyone who “[o]ffers, gives, lends or promises to give or lend, or endeavors to procure, anything of value, or any office or employment or any privilege or immunity to, or for, any elector, or to or for any other person, in order to induce any elector to” participate in an election or to vote for a specific candidate. 

Wisconsin Takes Action explains its purpose as “working towards a progressive majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.” The organization’s Twitter page calls on interested Badger Staters to “[j]oin us and earn $250+ to mobilize your friends” in favor of the liberal Protasiewicz against conservative former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly. 

A recording of one of the groups’ online training sessions emerged earlier this week via a WISN radio report by Dan O’Donnell; therein, an organizer identifying himself as Christian explained the process whereby participants would get paid $30 merely to download the phone application to facilitate the outreach process and receive $60 in retail gift cards for following the app’s “relational organizing” plan.

Through that plan, the original voter would feed 75 of his or her own contacts into the system. Of those, 15 will not be contacted before the election but the app’s administrator, known as the Empower Project, will contact them afterward to see if they voted without the participant’s encouragement. The app user would personally encourage the other 60 to vote for Protasiewicz and receive $1 every time he or she reached out to a voter. 

Wisconsin Takes Action has reportedly contacted hundreds of people nationwide to generate interest in this effort. The program operates under the auspices of the Organizing Empowerment Political Action Committee (EmpowerPAC), a national leftist organization.

EmpowerPAC has undertaken campaigns on behalf of left-wing candidates in numerous states including South Carolina, Virginia, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania. Such out-of-state influence on Wisconsin elections is something that Brandtjen has scrutinized in her capacity as Campaigns and Elections chair and that she said concerns her about Wisconsin Takes Action’s current effort. She also insisted that everyone who wants fair elections should object to a group doling out de facto monetary rewards for participating in elections.

“I think, at the end of the day — Republicans, Democrats, independents — we all want fair elections as the base of our republic,” she said. “And, honestly, if we can online provide gift cards to individuals who have been encouraged to vote via payment, really without any accounting, how is that fair to the election process?”

As The Daily Star reported last month, Protasiewicz ascribes much of the $2.2 million she raised during the campaign so far to out-of-state liberal donors. Nearly half of her contributions came from outside the Badger State, unlike Kelly’s 19 percent. 

Kelly and Protasiewicz are competing in a nominally nonpartisan general election that will take place on April 4. Republicans are framing the campaign as a law-and-order matter, castigating Protasiewicz, a Milwaukee County Judge, for what they consider her soft-on-crime record. Democrats have meanwhile underscored the race’s potential impact on abortion law, saying Kelly is likely to validate Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban.

The winner of the race will replace retiring conservative Justice Patience Roggensack and decide factional control of the court on which right-leaning justices now enjoy a 4-3 majority.

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Wisconsin Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Janel Brandtjen” by Representative Janel Brandtjen.


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