Are activists bribing voters in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race?

by | Mar 1, 2023 | Election Integrity, Law and Fair Courts

It’s not enough to win votes these days, so a leftist group allegedly is buying them.

Multiple reports suggest that a professional activist group, Wisconsin Takes Action (WTA), is paying voters in excess of $250 to encourage their friends to vote for far-left candidate Janet Protasiewicz in the state’s upcoming Supreme Court election. 

Both WTA’s Twitter page and website boast that the group is “working towards a progressive majority on the Supreme Court” and offer “community mobilizers” “$250+ for your time talking to your friends and family about voting” in the April 2023 election, which will determine control of the court after last month’s primary election.

In practice, that means mass texting voters about the $250 “opportunity.” Individuals get a $30 gift card simply for downloading WTA’s preferred app and more for every contact they help convince to vote for Protasiewicz, starting with an initial pool of 75 people whose information is uploaded to the app. 

If there’s any doubt that WTA is partisan, consider that the group has warned voters that a conservative majority would imperil “reproductive freedom,” “public education,” “healthcare access,” and “voting and civil rights.” Among its partners are the Black Lives Matter PAC, Wisconsin chapter of the government workers’ union AFSCME, the state American Federation of Teachers, and Tom Steyer’s “green” group NextGen America.

Wisconsin Supreme Court - Progressive Majority website

If the allegations are true, some conservatives are saying it constitutes bribery—a felony punishable by three years in prison. Did WTA break the law? We won’t know until someone takes the group to court. What is clear is that the Left is watching closely to see if watchdog groups will push back before activists expand the scheme beyond Wisconsin.

Wisconsin state law specifically outlaws “any person who

(a) Offers, 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:

1. Go to or refrain from going to the polls.

2. Vote or refrain from voting.

3. Vote or refrain from voting for or against a particular person.

4. Vote or refrain from voting for or against a particular referendum; or on account of any elector having done any of the above.

(b) Receives, agrees or contracts to receive or accept any money, gift, loan, valuable consideration, office or employment personally or for any other person, in consideration that the person or any elector will, so act or has so acted.

(c) Advances, pays or causes to be paid any money to or for the use of any person with the intent that such money or any part thereof will be used to bribe electors at any election.

WTA itself is a front for the Organizing Empowerment PAC, which spent over $1.3 million boosting Democratic Senate candidates in the 2022 midterms, including Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, and Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Georgia.

90 percent of the super PAC’s funds in 2022 came from a single source: the Organizing Empowerment Project, a Wisconsin-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit. We’ve traced a $500,000 grant in 2019 to the project from America Votes, the self-appointed “coordination hub of the progressive community,” and another $150,000 that year from the Tides Foundation, a top pass-through funder to left-wing groups. Its other donors remain elusive.

The Organizing Empowerment Project specializes in training other activist groups and labor unions in getting-out-the-vote via “relational organizing”: Using trusted friends and family members to influence how people vote—think WTA’s vote-buying scheme.

The project claims credit for training activists from Rock the Vote, Indivisible, Black Voters Matter, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Muslim Voter Project, and Wisconsin’s Planned Parenthood chapter, among many others.

This shady get-out-the-vote scheme may be enough to push Protasiewicz over the finish line despite her radical views on everything from unlimited abortion access, to her hostility to traditional Christians, to Wisconsin’s legislative maps. The Democrat currently enjoys a 7–1 spending advantage compared with her conservative opponent, former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, who is supported by ads paid for by Fair Courts America (a Restoration of America affiliate).

Voters go to the polls on April 4.

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