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Don’t Expand Gableman’s Role

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
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on Friday, 21 January 2022
in Wisconsin

michael-gableman-we-the-poepleMatt Rothschild makes statement to the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections opposing the motion to enlarge the scope of the special counsel's role.

MADISON - I’m Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Since 1995, we’ve been tracking and exposing the money in Wisconsin politics and advocating for a broad range of pro-democracy reforms.

We strongly object to this motion to enlarge the scope of the special counsel’s role for the following eight reasons.

Problem #1: This motion violates the separation of powers by giving the special counsel prosecutorial powers.

It would allow Gableman to interview citizens in private, behind closed doors with no legislative oversight. There is no statute or rule that allows for this type of private, quasi-deposition and secretive process, and the people of Wisconsin rightfully expect transparency in their lawmaking and from their legislature. The legislature is not supposed to be in the prosecution business. That role properly resides in the executive branch.

Problem #2: The special counsel has a preconceived bias that makes him unsuited for this job.

Just days after the election, Michael Gableman, at a partisan Republican rally, said: "Our elected leaders — your elected leaders — have allowed unelected bureaucrats at the Wisconsin Elections Commission to steal our vote.” Someone who has made such a slanderous accusation and has demonstrated such a preconceived bias should not be in charge of the investigation. The accuser should not become the prosecutor.

Problem #3: Staff members of the special counsel have the same preconceived bias that disqualifies them from their jobs and that reinforces the disqualifying bias of the special counsel.

Gableman’s chief of staff, Andrew Kloster, also has said that the election was stolen. What’s more, he said in April that conservatives need their own “irate hooligans” like the Proud Boys and “our own captured DA offices to let our boys off the hook.” This is an incitement to rightwing vigilante violence and to corrupt enforcement of the law! Other staff members are similarly biased. One of his investigators, Ron Heuer, is the president of the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, which unsuccessfully sued to prevent the Wisconsin Elections Commission from certifying the election and sought instead to have the Republican-controlled Legislature pick the representatives Wisconsin sent to the Electoral College. These partisan biases could not be more glaring or more disqualifying.

Problem #4: The special counsel has shown that he does not have the background or skills necessary for this job.

The special counsel admitted in public that he doesn’t have “any understanding of how elections work.” So why he is in charge? He also has shown extraordinary sloppiness in the way he’s been doing his job. Example 1: He subpoenaed Dominion voting machines from Madison and Green Bay when neither Madison nor Green Bay uses Dominion voting machines. Example 2: He asked Green Bay and Madison for all information about voters held by their computer systems, but that could include information like birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and addresses. Voters have an expectation that their personal information will not be treated with such callousness.

Problem #5: The special counsel does not have the proper temperament for this job.

The special counsel interrupted and berated members of this very Committee in previous “public” hearings in a way that no witness in memory has gotten away with. Also at one of these hearings, the special counsel, by name, accused one of the most senior Capitol reporters in our state as being an “activist.” And the special counsel also said that State Senator Kathy Bernier, chair of the Senate Committee on Elections, should resign. Such outbursts reveal a serious character flaw that should disqualify Gableman from this office.

Problem #6: The special counsel is squandering the public’s resources with no endpoint in sight.

The office of the special counsel has already cost the taxpayers of Wisconsin $676,000. The boundless motion to expand his role would keep the meter running overtime. It’s the very definition of a blank check. Speaker Vos, who originally appointed Gableman, said that the special counsel should wrap up his work last October, and then the Speaker extended that to the end of the last year, and then to the end of this January, and then to the end of February. And now the Committee’s motion would extend it even further, with no end in sight. This constant shifting of the goalposts does a disservice to the public, and to the public’s wallet.

Problem #7: The special counsel is serving not the public interest but a narrow partisan interest.

The November 2020 elections are now more than 14 months old. Donald Trump went 0-60 in the courts, including 0-3 at the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He demanded a recount in Dane County and Milwaukee County, and the recount found the same result. The Legislative Audit Bureau examined our elections, and according to Sen. Rob Cowles, co-chair of the Legislative Audit Committee, the audit showed that our elections are “safe and secure.” Even the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty found that there was no widespread fraud. Sen. Bernier has denounced the endless beating of this dead horse as a “charade.” And yet it continues. Not in search of the truth, but for other reasons:

  • to provide some post-facto justification for the Big Lie that spills out of Donald Trump’s mouth right after he says good morning
  • to back up the regurgitation of that lie by the likes of Michael Gableman and others
  • to feed rancid red meat to the zealous base of the Trump wing of the Republican Party
  • and to keep that base agitated through the elections of 2022 and 2024.

Our tax dollars should not be squandered for such hyper-partisan purposes.

Problem #8: The special counsel’s ceaseless casting of aspersions about the legitimacy of the November 2020 elections undermines the people’s faith in our democracy.

matt-rothschild-2018There has been an unprecedented attempt, nationwide and here in Wisconsin, by the Trumpite wing of the Republican Party to sabotage our American way of political life. Never before have we seen a President not vow to have a peaceful transition of power. Never before have we seen anything like the Jan. 6 coup attempt. And still people like Michael Gableman claim that the election was “rigged.” These are like parents at a high school game screaming at the refs in the parking lot more than a year after the game ended. It would be pathetic if it weren’t so dangerous to our democracy and our freedom to vote.

Thank you for considering my views.


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A Lesson on Equality

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 19 January 2022
in Wisconsin

mlk-flagSen. Smith writes about the life work of Dr. Martin Luther King and how it influenced his own thoughts on the meaning of equality.

BRUNSWICK, WI - What does equality mean to you? It’s a question on most Americans’ minds as we come together to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in communities across America, including Eau Claire. For this year’s MLK Day Celebration, we’re asked to reflect on his life’s work and the meaning of equality.

Dr. King championed the issue of equality as an activist during the Civil Rights Movement. He advocated for the “full realization of the American dream … A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few.”

When considering what Dr. King said, we understand there’s so much more to achieving equality than removing the shackles of slavery. Working toward Dr. King’s vision of the American Dream requires us to understand historical barriers that prevent equitable advancement opportunities in our country.

Dr. King identified the realities of inequality throughout many aspects in American life, including obvious economic inequalities. The “necessities” of our everyday life–healthcare, a good-paying job, basic human rights–can be lost or unattainable for some because of policies adopted by political leaders. While some policies deliberately widen the gap of inequality, some policies may be an oversight with unintended consequences. Either way, policies that harm Americans, and adversely affect groups one over the other, must be addressed.

That was the intent, of course, when slavery was finally abolished. And yet, we know equality wasn’t achieved because of this one act. Another hundred years of oppression toward African Americans followed because some leaders and those in positions of privilege weren’t willing to be equal with their fellow Americans.

Equality happens only when opportunities are present for all, not just those privileged at the top. We can still have diversity in what we do and how we live. Equality means that no family should suffer in poverty. It should mean that nobody should be homeless or struggle with inadequate housing.

As Dr. King raised his own credibility on the national scene, he was able to also raise the consciousness of a nation. He earned the trust of Americans through his diplomacy and insistence of a non-violent movement. Despite being arrested thirty times, he never bowed to violent measures and found other ways to prevail.

While his first goal may have been to stop Jim Crow laws, he expanded his own advocacy after his success following the March on Washington in 1963 to include equal housing, fair wages and voting rights for all U.S. citizens regardless of one’s skin color.

jeff-smithSo, what is your image of equality? Most of us have lived with the privilege of not knowing oppression or the lack of opportunity to better ourselves. Personally, I know I live with this privilege because I haven’t experienced discrimination firsthand.

It takes critical thinking to recognize policies don’t always present the best outcomes for everybody. It takes even more for each of us to openly admit that we could do better to lift up our fellow citizens. Equality must be a reality in our daily life in order to live the life we thought this country was designed to deliver. A free and equal education system, food security, affordable housing, guaranteed livable wages and access to voting for all eligible citizens—these are just some of the necessities that make us truly equitable.

Dr. King proclaimed in his “I Have a Dream” speech, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ... Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."

We know this speech well; we’ve heard these words many times and understand the powerful meaning behind them. Achieving equality–the American Dream for all citizens–has been slow to come, but I believe we can head in the right direction. Only together can we fully get there, closer to true equality.

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Protect Wisconsin from PFAS

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 12 January 2022
in Wisconsin

pfas-contamination-testSen. Smith writes about how chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are impacting our groundwater. We know that testing is essential to identify PFAS contamination, understand the extent of the issue and act to limit exposure to these harmful chemicals.

BRUNSWICK, WI - Protecting the quality of food we eat, air we breathe and water we drink should be a top priority. It’s what we need to survive.

We’ve seen over time that inadvertent mistakes have been made that threaten access to these essential resources. In some cases, corporate greed poses short-term profits for some and long-term health impacts for all. Without the proper research and intervention, we can face serious consequences for decades–and generations–to come.

Sometimes neither business nor government leaders are aware of environmental dangers for years until patterns of illness or death appear. An example I often reflect on is the near extinction of the American bald eagle. For decades, environmentalists were puzzled at the eagle populations’ rapid decline. Then researchers discovered the correlation between the widely-used chemical DDT as a mosquito pesticide and eagles’ endangerment.

At the peak of the problem it was rare to even spot an eagle; I know, because I was a child when this was happening and got excited any time I saw one of these majestic birds flying overhead. Since Congress banned DDT in 1972, the resurgence of the eagle is one of the most amazing environmental success stories of the last several decades.

This is what’s currently happening with Wisconsin’s groundwater because of chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). PFAS are also referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down naturally in the environment and can stay in one’s body for long periods of time. These chemicals produced in laboratories are used in products like food wrap, stain resistant carpeting, non-stick pans and water repellant clothing. PFAS are dangerous because they’re in so many products and they’re hazardous to humans, having been linked to certain cancers, liver damage, decrease in vaccine efficacy and more.

One product specifically highlights the widespread threat of PFAS: firefighting foam. As effective as the foam is in controlling a fire, it was found to be just as effective at contaminating our groundwater. After a fire incident, the foam was just washed off a road or airport runway entering into the ground. Eventually it was bound to end up in the groundwater. With approximately 97% of Wisconsin communities (equaling 70% of the state’s population) dependent on groundwater for their water supply, this really is an alarming situation that we cannot ignore. It won’t go away on its own.

Groundwater testing is essential to identify PFAS contamination, understand the extent of the issue and act to limit exposure to these harmful chemicals. Some communities have tested and found their wells to be contaminated; they’ve started taking action.

jeff-smithI had the opportunity to tour the wells in the City of Eau Claire where they found PFAS in seven of their sixteen wells last year. They knew they couldn’t wait for politicians in Madison to fix the problem, so they implemented an impressive solution on their own. Eau Claire acted quickly and efficiently, but it will take serious action at the state and national level for the risk of PFAS to dissipate.

The federal government does not set groundwater standards—this happens at the state level. Wisconsin has fallen behind our neighbors in Minnesota and Michigan; they have already begun widespread testing. In 1983, Wisconsin led the nation in groundwater protection by passing the Comprehensive Groundwater Protection Act, which remains widely supported to this day. Since then it has been used to set groundwater standards for 138 chemicals in Wisconsin—but PFAS isn’t one of them.

Just last week, the Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing about proposed rules to implement groundwater standards for PFAS. Since declaring 2019 the “Year of Clean Drinking Water,” Governor Evers’ Administration has been hard at work to ensure Wisconsinites have safe, clean drinking water now and forever. Although the public hearing passed, continue to pay attention and advocate for stronger water protections. It’s up to us to ensure our children can live in a state where they don’t simply survive, but thrive.

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Wisconsin’s January 6 Collaborators

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 07 January 2022
in Wisconsin

andre-jacqueMatt Rothschild of the Democracy Campaign exposes Republican activists and elected officials who schemed to subvert the Electoral College vote or who have continued to perpetuate the Big Lie.

MADISON - Here in Wisconsin, we’ve had our own collaborators in the Jan. 6 coup attempt by far right Trumpites.

I’m not even referring to the six Wisconsinites who were charged with crimes in the U.S. Capitol that day.

matt-rothschild-2018I’m referring, instead, to Republican activists and elected officials who schemed to subvert the Electoral College vote or who have continued to perpetuate the Big Lie and thereby sabotage the people’s faith in our elections to this day.

First, in December of 2020, a group of 10 Republicans took it upon themselves to “certify” that Trump had won the election here and they pretended to be Wisconsin’s electors to the Electoral College. Here is the list of these false and fraudulent “electors”: Carol Brunner, Mary Buestrin, Darryl Carson, Bill Feehan, Scott Grabins, Andrew Hitt, Kathy Kiernen, Kelly Ruh, Robert Spindell, and Pam Travis. (One of these, Robert Spindell, is actually on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which received a legal complaint last February from Law Forward to investigate all of these false electors, including Spindell.)

Then on Jan. 5, 2021, of all days, 15 Republican state legislators from Wisconsin (along with Republican legislators from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) signed a letter to Vice President Pence urging him to delay the counting of electoral votes for at least 10 days and allow the legislatures in these state time to decertify the electors who were sent to the Electoral College and to certify their own slates. (This was part of the plot that the Eastman memo had outlined for Trump.)

The Wisconsin legislators who signed this letter were:

Sen. André Jacque (R-DePere) and Reps. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger), Robert Brooks (R-Saukville), Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago), Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), Gae Magnafici (R-Dresser), Dave Murphy (R-Greenville), Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz) Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Berlin), Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh), Tim Ramthun (R-Campbellsport), Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers), Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego). (Note that Rep. Brandtjen is the chair of the Assembly Committee on Elections, where she has been holding one biased hearing after another to air her conspiracy theories.)

None of these elected officials, nor any of the false electors, has had to account for their disgraceful role in this sinister plot.

Since Jan. 6, 2021, we’ve continued to see denialism about Biden’s legitimacy (Rep. Ramthun introduced a resolution in November to retroactively decertify Wisconsin’s electors to the Electoral College), denialism about the subversion on Jan. 6 (see Ron Johnson), the introduction of anti-voter bills, and an all-out assault on the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Here are the goals of these anti-American efforts.

First, to keep feeding rancid red meat to the enraged Trumpite base so they will turn out in huge numbers in 2022 and 2024.

Second, to enact laws that will make it harder for people to vote, especially people who lean Democratic.

And third, to sully the reputation of the Wisconsin Elections Commission so badly that partisan Republican officials in the Legislature can destroy it and hand over the administration – and more dangerous still, the certification – of our elections to the Legislature itself or to a particular partisan official the Legislature appoints. In this way, Republican partisans could overturn the will of the people and decide, by fiat, who won the election, regardless of the actual vote count.

That’s what the Gableman fishing expedition is all about.

That’s what the wild accusations from the sheriff of Racine County, Christopher Schmaling (who was the featured speaker at a Women for Trump rally during the 2020 campaign here), are all about. Schmaling got into the act by saying that five of the six commissioners of the Wisconsin Elections Commission should be prosecuted for sending absentee ballots to people in nursing homes when Special Voting Deputies weren’t able to get in there.

This constant drumbeat of propaganda, amplified on rightwing talk radio, has infected much of the Republican Party, with 64% of Republicans in Wisconsin doubting the validity of last November’s election, according to a Marquette Law School poll late last year.

Many Republican officials, with the notable exception of Sen. Kathy Bernier, have been afraid to speak up and tell the truth, for fear that their base – or their party leaders – will punish them for it.

So they’ve created a monster here, and the monster is out of control, and it’s threatening to gobble up the Wisconsin Elections Commission and trample all over our precious ideal of fair elections in Wisconsin.

This is the legacy of Jan. 6 in Wisconsin. And it’s not pretty.


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Wis Republican Floats Way to Nullify Elections

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 05 January 2022
in Wisconsin

trump-jan6-attackDemocracy Campaign's Matt Rothschild comments on the current anti-democracy madness in Wisconsin.

MADISON - In the waning hours of 2021, a Republican legislator in Wisconsin named Timothy Ramthun wasn’t chilling champagne or relaxing with his family.

No, he was still scheming to subvert our democracy.

Ramthun, who in November introduced a resolution to rescind Wisconsin’s Electoral Colleges votes that were certified on Jan. 6, introduced a bill on Dec. 30 that would permit the nullification of an election and the mandating of a do-over 30 days later in some circumstances.

Those circumstances include where the total number of absentee ballots exceeds the margin of victory, which, under his bill, would necessitate a forensic audit. (In the November 2020 elections, almost 2 million Wisconsinites voted by absentee ballot, and Biden won by about 21,000 votes.)

After such an audit, if the Wisconsin Elections Commission or the Attorney General or a district attorney “having jurisdiction over the matter determines that a violation of the laws relating to election threats, bribery, or fraud occurred,” then the election is null and void.

This is way off the charts. There’s no precedent for nullifying elections in Wisconsin.

And note that Ramthun has totally aced out the judiciary, which up to now has had the authority to resolve election disputes.

Ramthun sidelines the judges and would conveniently hand power over to partisan officials.

This is an assault not only on our right to vote but on the separation of powers and our very system of checks and balances.

The anti-democracy madness in Wisconsin has got to stop!

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