MADISON — A national election integrity watchdog announced Thursday it was filing a formal complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission on behalf of five Green Bay residents. The complainants allege city officials allowed “private activist groups to control significant aspects of the 2020 election, including ballot ‘curing’ and vote counting.”
“Hundreds of millions of dollars purchased local election offices in 2020 to benefit one political candidate, paying salaries of election officials and literally dictating the manner in which the election should be managed,” Phill Kline, director of The Amistad Project said in a press release. “Evidence in Green Bay proves this shadow government ran the election and now it is time those involved come clean.”
The Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life handed out more than $8 million in “election safety and security” grants to Wisconsin’s five largest and most heavily Democratic cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine. CTCL received $350 million from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife to “help” local elections offices administer “safe and secure elections.”
As a Wisconsin Spotlight investigation uncovered, CTCL required the “Wisconsin 5” cities to sign contracts that included funding clawback provisions if they failed to meet CTCL’s demands. Local elections officials had to work with the center’s partner organizations, like the National Vote at Home Institute. Emails show longtime Democratic operative Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, Wisconsin lead for the institute, was intricately involved in the administration of Green Bay’s and Milwaukee’s elections, even offering to “cure” or correct absentee ballots.
“This is about safeguarding future elections and establishing the precedent that private corporations and tech oligarchs should not be calling the shots,” said Erick Kaardal, special counsel for The Amistad Project. “Wisconsin law puts city clerks in charge of administering elections at the local level, yet internal emails show that Green Bay’s city clerk was boxed out by the mayor’s office, which handed over the keys to the counting room to Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein ..”
Green Bay city officials have disputed the allegations, saying they followed election law. But emails obtained by Wisconsin Spotlight raise serious concerns about communications the office of Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich had with former City Clerk Kris Teske. Teske grew so frustrated with the third-party groups and city officials meddling in her office and bullying her and her staff that she resigned.
According to the complaint, Internal emails obtained by The Amistad Project show several other left-leaning political advisors and lawyers involved in deciding Green Bay’s internal counting room policy and the city’s targeting specific voter demographics favorable to Democrat Party candidates for outreach and voter turnout efforts.
“Private interests dictating how government manages elections ensures public doubt about election outcomes and involves government in playing favorites,” Kline said. His group first raised similar concerns in a lawsuit filed in September, with several cases still being litigated. CTCL at the time called The Amistad Project’s claims “baseless,” noting that it pushed its grants far and wide, not just to the biggest, left-leaning cities in battleground states. But, at least in Wisconsin, it’s clear CTCL gave significantly more funding to the Wisconsin 5 than it did to the other grant communities.
Kardaal joined the complainants at a press conference in Green Bay.
James Fitzgerald said he was deeply concerned about the many “irregularities” he saw on election night — and by what he learned afterward.
“I’m here today for several reasons, but most importantly for integrity, restoring integrity of the elections at the ballot box here in Green Bay,” said Fitzgerald, one of the five complainants and chairman of the Brown County Republican Party.
The complainants may face an uphill battle with a Wisconsin Elections Commission led by a highly partisan chairwoman appointed by Democrats. And WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe was not only aware of the left-leaning groups involved in the elections in Green Bay and Milwaukee, she promoted them to other elections officials.
“The WEC Administrator’s involvement raises serious doubts regarding the objectivity of the Commission in conducting an investigation,” stated Kaardal, adding that Wolfe school recuse herself from any investigation the commission may conduct. “Fairness, openness, and a thorough review by WEC are necessary, and Ms. Wolfe has demonstrated her hostility to such an approach.”
WEC spokesman Reid Magney said the agency had not received the complaint as of Thursday afternoon. Once received, the agency will post the complaint on its website, as well as responses to the complaint, Magney said.
“The WEC does not comment on the substance of pending complaints. We will follow the process outlined in statute for processing and adjudicating complaints,” the spokesman said.
Kardaal told conservative radio talk show host Vicki McKenna that no matter how WEC rules, The Amistad Project intends to take its complaints to court.