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Voters fight Wisconsin Republican congressmen’s attempt to dismiss lawsuit aiming to bar them from office

By: - May 19, 2022 6:39 am
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin February 15, 2012 | Washington, D.C. Official Oversight and Government Reform photograph

A group of voters suing to prevent Sen. Ron Johnson, Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) from holding public office is fighting an effort by the congressmen to dismiss the lawsuit. 

In March, a group of ten voters filed a lawsuit against Fitzgerald, Johnson and Tiffany for their roles in the attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election. Fitzgerald and Tiffany both voted against certifying the election results on Jan. 6, 2021 and Johnson, who initially signaled his intent to do the same but backed off after the deadly attack on the Capitol, has frequently shared baseless accusations of election fraud. 

The lawsuit, aided by funding from the liberal Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC, argues that under Article 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, the three Republicans can be barred from office because they took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution but engaged in “an insurrection or rebellion,” against the U.S. 

“Unfortunately, Defendants and their fellow Trump acolytes were not just telling lies about the election results and voting processes in Wisconsin and elsewhere,” the lawsuit states. “While they were spreading their malicious falsehoods about a ‘rigged election’ through regular and social media and at public appearances, Johnson, Tiffany, Fitzgerald, President Trump, and many others identified in this Complaint or still unknown to the public and the Plaintiffs were also engaged in a conspiracy whose illegal objective was to hijack the Joint Session on January 6, 2021 in order to permit the presentation of knowingly false and fraudulent slates of electors to the President of the Senate (Vice President Pence), the Senate, and the House of Representatives.” 

Last month, the three members of Congress filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the plaintiffs don’t have the legal standing to bring the lawsuit. 

“First, this Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ declaratory-judgment action because they lack standing and because the U.S. Constitution grants Congress sole authority to decide challenges to Members’ qualifications,” Johnson’s motion to dismiss states. “Second, even if the Court has jurisdiction (it does not), Plaintiffs fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Congress has removed the disabilities imposed by the Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment (Disqualification Clause), and Plaintiffs identify no protected personal ‘rights’ to vindicate under the Declaratory Judgment Act. Senator Johnson respectfully requests that the Court dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint with prejudice.” 

Now, the voters are fighting the motion to dismiss, arguing that being forced to debunk continued false allegations of election fraud has injured their right to advocate for their preferred policies. 

“A declaration from this Court will redress Plaintiffs’ First Amendment injury, allowing them to focus their political activism on the policy issues that matter to them rather than debunking ‘The Big Lie’ and speaking out against those who continued to support it,” an opposition motion states. “So long as the air remains clouded by a failure to resolve the constitutional questions that Plaintiffs have raised, their rights are being impaired.”

Update: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Johnson and Tiffany both voted against certifying the election results on Jan. 6, 2021. Instead of “Johnson” it should have said “Tiffany”.  Although the article went on to say that Johnson, who had initially signaled his intent to do the same, backed off after the deadly attack on the Capitol, we regret any confusion caused by the error.

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.

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