Dem lawmakers to DA: Wisconsin must ‘prosecute sedition within its own borders’

By: - January 11, 2022 6:45 am
Wisconsin's electors meet in the Capitol on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 to deliver the state's 10 electoral votes for Joe Biden. (Photo by Morry Gash)

Wisconsin’s electors meet in the Capitol on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 to deliver the state’s 10 electoral votes for Joe Biden. (Pool photo by Morry Gash)

State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) sent a letter Monday putting pressure on Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, also a Democrat, to hold the “cabal” of Republicans electors who certified that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin accountable for what the lawmakers label “sedition.”

Brostoff and Larson are referring to the meeting on Dec. 14, 2020 in the Capitol where Republican electors gathered to falsely certify that Donald Trump won the presidential election in Wisconsin and they cast those votes as if they were electors.

Gov. Tony Evers signs the document delivering Wisconsin's 10 Electoral College votes to Joe Biden (photo by Morry Gash, Associated Press)
Gov. Tony Evers signs the document delivering Wisconsin’s 10 Electoral College votes to Joe Biden (pool photo by Morry Gash, Associated Press)

The state’s actual Certificate of Ascertainment, which lists how many votes each candidate for president received in the state, came from the group of Democratic electors that included Gov. Tony Evers, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Rep. Shelia Stubbs and Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler. They met the day after a partial recount was completed that found dozens of additional votes for Biden as part of the Trump campaign’s unsuccessful attempt to throw out 238,000 votes in the Democratic strongholds of Dane and Milwaukee counties. It was determined that Biden had won by 20,682 votes out of 3.3 million cast in the state.

The 10 Democratic electors signed the certification live on Wisconsin Eye and then mailed it to the U.S. Senate.

The other electors, chosen in advance by the Republican party, also met at the Capitol, but in secret, claiming they were authorized to cast Wisconsin’s votes for Trump, who lost the statewide election.

The 10 who falsely claimed Trump had won Wisconsin’s votes were Carol Brunner, Edward Scott Grabins, Bill Feehan, Robert F. Spindell, Jr., Kathy Kiernan, Darryl Carlson, Pam Travis, Kelly Ruh, Andrew Hitt and Mary Buestrin.

Bob Spindell testifying at legislative election hearing via WisEye
Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Bob Spindell |WisEye

Larson’s staff is looking into where the Republican false electors met in the Capitol, saying that whoever reserved the room for them is also complicit in what Larson and others deem a crime.

In a complaint filed last year on Feb. 15, Law Forward attorneys Jeff Mandell and Mel Barnes detailed the activities the group engaged in, asking Chisholm for an investigation into the 10 “imposter” electors who met in secrecy and “chose to commit fraud,” breaking Wisconsin law. Other potential state law violations the attorneys assert may have occurred include forgery, falsely acting as public officers, misconduct in public office and conspiracy to commit criminal acts — as well as potential violations of federal law.

On Monday, 11 months later, Larson and Brostoff echoed the attorneys’ request for an investigation in a letter to Chisholm, regarding what they dubbed “a cabal of individuals who … brazenly engaged in a conspiracy to commit criminal acts including forgery, falsely assuming to act as a public officer, and misconduct in public office.  They did so with the clear intent to fraudulently steal the election and sabotage our democracy.”

Laying the ground for the insurrection

When Congress met on Jan. 6, 2021 — the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol — it had two competing sets of paperwork from Wisconsin. One set certified that Joe Biden had won the state’s presidential election, the other that Donald Trump had won Wisconsin’s Electoral College votes.

As Mandell pointed out in a column in the Examiner last week, “This was true because 10 individuals had deliberately attempted to defraud the 3.3 million Wisconsinites who had voted — in a concerted campaign to usurp the voters’ will.”

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The focus during last week’s anniversary of the D.C. Capitol attack was on members of Congress — including Wisconsin Republicans Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald — who objected to certifying Biden as the legitimate victor even after the mob swarmed the Capitol in 2021. Mandell stressed that such an action “wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of fraudulent electors who had sent false papers to Congress.”

Jeffrey Mandel headshot
Jeffrey A. Mandell

“No legal authority suggested the fraudulent electors could properly convene and act as they did, purporting to cast Wisconsin’s 10 Electoral College votes for candidates who were not chosen by Wisconsin voters and not entitled to the state’s electoral votes under law,” Mandell wrote in his column. “To the contrary, by impersonating Wisconsin’s legally selected and authorized presidential electors, the fraudulent electors flouted the people’s will expressed at the ballot box and attempted to misappropriate Wisconsin’s participation in selecting the next U.S. president.”

“Even worse, the fraudulent electors created the conditions necessary for the Jan. 6 insurrection,” Mandell concluded.

Now Larson and Brostoff are looking for action from Chisholm to hold the 10 false electors accountable for trying to force their personal preferences on the state, while disregarding the will of 3.3 million state voters.

“We write today to request an update on your investigation into this blatant criminal attempt to defraud our free and fair elections and throw the election to the losing candidate,” Larson and Brostoff wrote in their letter. “Tolerating such criminal activity not only perpetuates election falsehoods but also emboldens open attacks on the foundation and functions of our democracy. As Congress continues to sort through the deadly January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Wisconsin must do all it can to prosecute sedition within its own borders.”

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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.

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